The impact of Martyn’s Law on venue security legislation


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Martyn’s Law: Legislation founded in tragedy

Few of us will ever be able to forget the tragic events that occurred at Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017, as an Ariana Grande concert was coming to an end. What began as a joyous night for thousands of fans resulted in the deaths of 22 people, with a further 1,017 being injured and the arena’s foyer being destroyed by the device detonated by a suicide bomber. And it’s fair to say that the response from emergency workers and onsite security was, at the time, somewhat chaotic.

One of those who lost their life was Martyn Hett, a charismatic 29-year-old social media manager from Manchester, who loved music, performing, and all things Coronation Street. A young man who was so looking forward to the concert, but never made it home.

It seemed almost incomprehensible that this act of terrorism could be carried out, but there were significant safety and emergency failings which could have been handled better and reduced the loss of life.

In Martyn’s name, but in memory of all those affected, the concept of Martyn’s Law came into being. 

What is the background to Martyn’s Law?

Martyn's Law, officially the Terrorism, Protection of Premises Law, was included in the King’s Speech to Parliament in November 2023 and will come into effect shortly in 2024, although the announcement of the general election in July may change when that final date is. The key objective and purpose, as defined by ProtectUK, is to “improve protective security and organisational preparedness across the UK by mandating, for the first time, those responsible for certain premises and events to consider the terrorist risk and how they would respond to an attack”. 

It went on to say “The Bill will require certain venues to fulfil necessary but proportionate steps according to their capacity to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack and reduce harm. The duties that premises will have will depend on the size of the venue.”

Martyn’s mother, Figen Murray OBE (an honour bequeathed to her because of her relentless campaigning), has been at the frontline of change and awareness, ensuring much more rigorous security measures are undertaken – whether at massive event spaces like Manchester Arena or smaller local venues. 

She has said of the legislation: “Martyn’s Law isn’t going to stop terrorism, but common-sense security, and making sure venues are doing all they can to keep people safe, could mean fewer suffer what myself and the families of Manchester have had to endure.

“I welcome the Government’s commitment to including smaller venues and working quickly on this legislation. It is vital we now take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and others wherever possible and I hope other countries learn from this groundbreaking legislation.”

Aside from what happened in Manchester, there have been 14 terror attacks in the UK since the start of 2017, including the London Bridge and Borough attack, and the terrorist incident in and around Westminster.

While there is an enduring complex and omnipresent threat, with terrorists choosing to attack a broad range of locations, Martyn’s Law has been developed to keep those attending events and gatherings safer.

You can read more about it in this government factsheet here.

While the forthcoming general election may create a delay, this mission will soon be passed as an act of parliament, which means those with operational responsibilities for security will need to abide by the relevant parts of the legislation. Indeed, the Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak, at the time of writing in May 2024) has added his backing, commenting: “This vital legislation is to honour Martyn’s memory and all of those affected by terrorism”.

How will this law be formatted?

The legislation is a tiered model and reflects both the activity taking place and the size of the expected audience. A standard tier applies to locations with a capacity of 100-799 people, and the enhanced tier is for those venues and events above 800. The law and its component guidelines are to improve and prepare a venue so there is no undue burden on the business.

According to the summary of Martyn’s Law offered by BBC News, it will be compulsory for venues to follow measures such as training, information sharing, and completion of a preparedness plan. For those places that fall into the enhanced tier, there will be the necessity to complete an additional risk assessment, which will form the backbone of a watertight security programme. 
The three main constituent parts are:

  • Keep people safe under a law that will scale up preparedness for, and protection from, terrorist attacks
  • Better protection against the continued and evolving threat that the UK faces from terrorism
  • Support, guidance and training that will help embed best practices and drive up standards across the UK

And how will it affect businesses and organisations?

While we can assume the main sectors that will need to fall into line with legislation are arenas, sports grounds, theatres, and cinemas, the list also covers everything where a large group of people may gather for a purpose outside of work. We’ve identified the following:

  • Stores, supermarkets, and shopping centres
  • Bars, pubs, restaurants, cafés, nightclubs, and other public clubs 
  • Theatres, cinemas, concert halls, and arenas 
  • Outdoor sports grounds (including football, rugby, cricket, tennis, athletics, golf)
  • Indoor spectator sports venues (including athletics, gymnastics, darts, swimming, ice skating/ice hockey)
  • Public leisure centres, private ice rinks, and private/member gyms 
  • Public libraries, museums, and galleries 
  • Public conference centres, exhibition halls, and other venues for hire 
  • Visitor attractions such as stately homes, castles, and adventure parks
  • Hotels, holiday parks, and similar holiday accommodation 
  • Places of worship*
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Education and childcare facilities*
  • Public transport, including trains

*Education establishments (excluding higher education) and places of worship are likely to fall within standard-tier premises.

More importantly, what will venues and businesses need to do to comply with Martyn’s Law?

While the words of the law itself paint the broad strokes, there will be steps and measures to guarantee compliance. 

For those venues that fall into the standard tier, there will be regulatory safety and security training, information sharing, and the completion of a preparedness programme to make sure practices are both familiar and embedded within any health and safety plan. This would include how to conduct a lock-in, which could delay and contain a potential terrorist threat, and a solid understanding of how to carry out life-saving treatments while waiting for emergency services support to arrive.

In the case of those larger, high-capacity venues falling into the enhanced tier, the emphasis is on regular and thorough risk assessments that will act as a guide and structure for a strong and evolving security system. On the back of the findings, the outcome could be new or improved CCTV or people monitoring, and enhanced searching and scanning of bags and belongings.

Across both tiers, safety standards will need to be regularly reviewed and there is a duty of care that staff will not only be protected but remain familiar and up to date with safety and evacuation protocols. 

To make it very clear that this is compulsory, the Government is committed to establishing and enforcing regular inspections. This will not only encourage compliance but create a positive long-term culture for awareness across the venue and keep rule-breaking sanctions to a minimum.

The advice from an insurance perspective

Rather than wait for your commercial insurer to come to you, we’d recommend that you prepare yourself by understanding the implications of Martyn’s Law. As well as undertaking an on-site risk assessment that your insurance broker should be able to arrange, you may need to make changes to your health and safety programme and emergency evacuation training processes, and ensure that as a venue, your insurance cover aligns with this new legislation.

Martyn’s Law is a landmark piece of legislation, with the intention of protecting and saving lives rather than prosecuting people or places. So, as it passes into the statute book, the responsibility and onus will shift to venue operational teams to comply.

Find out more about how Howden can help your business be both compliant and safe for everyone who visits or works there by talking to our specialist risk advisory team today on 0330 008 1334