UK Government confirms new anti-terror duty on venues

The UK Government has published its response to the ‘Protect Duty’ (the Duty) consultation, which sought stakeholder views on a requirement for certain publicly accessible locations to implement security measures. Seventy per cent of respondents agreed there should be additional measures to protect the public from terror attacks.

There is currently no legislative requirement for organisations or venues to consider or employ security measures at the vast majority of public places. However, on 10 January 2022, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that legislation would be brought forward this year that will strike the right balance between public safety, whilst not placing excessive burden on small businesses.

Summary of the government’s response

What will the Protect Duty be?

Seven in ten of the 2,755 respondents agreed that those responsible for publicly accessible locations “should take appropriate and proportionate measures to protect the public from attacks”. This included ensuring staff are trained to respond appropriately.

There was agreement that the measures should be proportionate to a venue’s size, with smaller organisations not facing the same requirements as larger organisations.

What should the requirements be?

There was agreement that the Duty should encompass principles of accountability, including clear roles and responsibilities amongst event organisers and those at senior level within venues and organisations.

Half of the respondents that operate or own a publicly accessible location already undertake a risk assessment (once or multiple times a year) to assess the threat of a terrorist attack. When asked for views on a legislative requirement for local authorities to develop plans to combat terrorism, this was opposed by 41% of respondents, supported by 35%, with the rest giving no opinion. Rather, local authorities were considered the key organisations to bring together security partnerships, receiving three times as many nominations as the emergency services.

Staff awareness raising and training courses were deemed to be the most effective way to improve protective security. This included the use of communications campaigns and guidance tools.

How should compliance work?

Half of the respondents supported the proposal of an inspectorate that would identify key vulnerabilities and areas for improvement, as well as share best practice. This included the use of civil penalties to ensure compliance with the Duty. Those who did not support an inspectorate alluded to the risk of a ‘heavy-handed’ approach, which could ultimately result in significant challenges and financial implications, such as in relation to enforcement action.

How should the government best support and work with partners?

Respondents deemed the most helpful mechanisms and tools to assist compliance with the Duty are:

  • A single, digital service to access relevant material, advice and training in one place.
  • A risk assessment template and information on undertaking a risk assessment for terrorism threats, to include easy to digest information regarding threat and attack methodologies.
  • Advice on what constitutes reasonably practicable and appropriate mitigations appropriate for individual circumstances.
  • Staff training and awareness courses.

Implementation of the Duty

The government will continue to engage with stakeholders and government departments to further develop the Protect Duty legislation, which will be introduced to parliament at the earliest opportunity.

The Home Office is already collaborating with the National Counter Terrorism Security Office and Pool Reinsurance to develop a new interactive online platform, due to launch publicly this year. The platform will provide a central digital location for advice, guidance, e-learning and other helpful content.

What next for businesses and insurers?

It is likely that anti-terror duties will apply to venues with capacity of 100 people or more. For insurers, this translates to continuing to work with existing and new clients in terrorism risk mitigation.

In a similar fashion to health and safety policies and risk assessments, the new legislation will likely require liability underwriters (particularly for employers’ and public liability) asking additional questions of policyholders. Brokers will also need to reflect on whether the limits they recommend for their clients will be sufficient.

For all businesses operating in the public arena, this development means they should develop or revisit their counter-terrorism measures, paying specific attention to how best to manage and mitigate the identified risks. This will in turn impact decisions businesses make about insurance cover. Preparedness is vital.

Ahead of the detail of the Duty evolving, two aspects will require attention. The first is to ensure the definition of the Duty is clear, comprehensive and meaningful, so to avoid any untinned consequences (including satellite litigation). All actors will need to understand what is required of them to take “reasonably practical steps” to protect the public. The second relates to the need for the government to provide guidance on proportionate measures to ensure there is no undue burden on businesses, particularly SMEs or those staffed by volunteers. The government must remember that organisations already spend significant sums of money each year on mitigation measures against terrorist attacks. As such, there is a balance to be struck between protecting the public from terror attacks and being able to afford to run a business.

Read other items in London Market Brief - February 2022

Related item: Protect Duty consultation: protecting public places from terrorist attacks