Mark Rowe

Martyn’s Law: something is missing

by Mark Rowe

Something is missing from the proposed Martyn’s Law, suggests Mark Rowe.

First, where we stand with the proposed Protect Duty, six years after the run of terrorist attacks that led to the campaign for Martyn’s Law. A second consultation by the Home Office runs until March 18, because the Home Office made a pig’s ear of drafting the Terrorism – Protection of Premises Bill, as savaged by the Home Affairs Select Committee last summer so that MPs would never vote for it. Hence the Home Office having to try again with what it proposes for the ‘standard tier’ of premises holding 100 to 800 (premises under 100 capacity don’t fall under the proposal, and premises with capacity of more than 800 will be an ‘enhanced tier’ and have to do more to comply). Or in the smooth words of the Home Office minister Tom Tugendhat, this is a mere ‘updated approach’, to make the proposal ‘balanced and proportionate’ (a pity it wasn’t, first time; security people protecting premises sometimes don’t not have the luxury of second goes).

What’s missing is that all the talk is of premises; nowhere is there any sense that what happens at one premises might require action at another. Which would imply some intelligence-sharing of threats beforehand, and a means of communicating during an emergency around an area.

That nothing’s proposed, in statute, for premises to have responsibilities beyond their ‘footprint’ is odd for several reasons. The Manchester Arena Inquiry did not look at the Arena in isolation; that the British Transport Police on duty at Victoria station on the night of May 22, 2017 did not do as their sergeant had tasked them to do mattered. We will never know if the BTP would have noticed the suicide terrorist or stopped him, if they had. Terror attacks since have made us familiar with the idea of a ‘marauding attack’; that (to give either London Bridge terror attack as an example) can start on the bridge and go into Borough Market, requiring a much wider evacuation; or an attack inside Fishmongers’ Hall, that ended on the bridge. A marauding terrorist may begin their attack on a premises with few people, only to be thwarted or chased into a place with more people that leads to further loss of life.

Not acknowledging that premises are not self-contained, that acts of terror and indeed fires and floods and ‘civil contingencies’ affect first one and then many premises, goes against the grain of arena development. I’m struggling to think of a recently-built sports arena that is stand-alone; rather, they come with hotel, shops, bus or train station. Take the O2 at Greenwich, which I single out because it does more than most, to be a good neighbour, besides doing the sorts of things Martyn’s Law will likely require of ‘enhanced tier’ sites. Indeed, in various settings – university campuses, arenas, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 – security managers are not waiting for Martyn’s Law to come in but are applying it, as good practice, besides anticipating that if the worst were to happen, an inquiry would ask why they did not apply the Protect Duty. “You cannot unknow the Manchester Arena Inquiry,” former counter-terror cop Nick Aldworth said at Carlisle Support Services’ Innovation Lab last Thursday in Liverpool (pictured).

But The O2; if a neighbour has an incident, that requires an evacuation, the North Greenwich Tube station or cable car over the Thames, or the Tesco convenience store beside the plaza, or the campus of Ravensbourne University, wouldn’t The O2 like to know, and vice versa? Or the considerable shopping mall beside its concert hall?

This suggestion is unhelpful, for several reasons. We are seeing how hard the Home Office is finding it to make Martyn’s Law, without adding complications (at these mixed use developments, owners might have differently named managers in charge of safety and security, or none; how hard should anyone try to make contact with them, quite apart from London service sector staff turnover?). It’s proving gruelling for Martyn’s Law campaigners, notably Figen Murray; although (as she says) she is ‘going nowhere’; she will persist. The officials’ timetable is forever shifting and the Home Office in any case makes no promises (the law will always come when ‘parliamentary time allows’). While Conservative Home Secretaries have committed to making the law, we have to allow for the Home Office to consider the consultation replies (and dutifully assume that it actually will do so, and not carry on with what it has in mind regardless), and add the summer and the silent slow-down of ministries before a May or autumn general election, and the law-making may well fall to a Labour government. That will require new ministers to be briefed; more time; and other laws cry out for making also (to give another security example, a reform of the 1990 Computer Misuse Act).

Maybe an added requirement for premises to cooperate will emerge, as original intentions have a habit of changing. Because I could not be in two places at once I was only able to hear the end of Nick Aldworth’s talk. He was speaking of after the Bill is passed; an advertising campaign will follow. The most pertinent part of Martyn’s Law will be the regulatory inspection regime, that (I might add) the Home Office has said (suspiciously) little about. Mr Aldworth said: “Of course there is a moral imperative here as well. When you speak and listen to Figen, it brings [that] in sharp relief.” Put another way, Martyn’s Law is not for its own sake but for preventing and mitigating attacks.

Whatever the ’regime’ may mandate – and those who have actually read the draft Bill remark on how much is being left to whoever regulates – premises are already talking to each other, indeed some must under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. Local resilience forums have categories one and two responders, in the jargon – the 999 services, NHS trusts, even the Met Office (because in case of an oil or gas explosion, you will want to know the direction of wind, to know who to alert to evacuate or close their windows). Separately, and patchily, some police and private security guard forces are already meeting regularly, to share details of crimes and offenders so as to best deploy their (finite) patrollers. For that public-private policing cooperation to become the norm, will probably take legislation, the 21st century equivalent of the County and Borough Police Act of 1856 (that required counties to form police forces, the crucial step in the making of British police, and not the 1829 founding of the Metropolitan Police usually trotted out) or the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (that required local government to do something about crime).

Premises security managers will acknowledge that it will take something, a Martyn’s Law, to do away with the unspoken attitude of some towards site protection of ‘we’ll wing it’ and ‘back of a cigarette packet’ planning – although given all the anti-smoking words and pictures on a cigarette packet now, you can hardly write a thing. How much more called for is a law to get premises to cooperate for greater good. For no man is an island, a continent of himself.

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