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“Martyn’s Law”: The Draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill and Community Buildings

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We have been receiving a lot of queries from charities and Parish Councils with community buildings and spaces with a capacity of over 100, as they are concerned about the potential impact of Martyn's Law.  Here, we explain a little bit about what it is, what the potential impacts are and what is happening with it. 

What is it, and what does it mean?

This Bill, known as Martyn’s Law, has been drafted in response to the 2017 Manchester Arena attack and (in its current form) will affect:

  • Public venues with a capacity for over 100 people
  • Public spaces (including event organisers using these locations) and;
  • Organisations in publicly accessible locations with more than 250 staff.

Naturally, this includes many of our Village Halls, Community Centres, and Parks.  The Bill will require these spaces to have developed “proportional” plans to respond in the event of a terrorist attack. 

The Bill is currently being reviewed and worked on before taking its final form, so much of the details here could be subject to change.

What effect will this have on our Community Space?

Essentially, if your Hall or Community Space falls into one of the above it is likely that the new law will require you to assess the risk of terror attacks, put measures in place to reduce the risks and potentially adopt robust terrorism plans.  It has been emphasized that the requirements will be proportional and a tiered approach is being taken.  It is currently proposed that there will be two tiers: 

  • A standard tier of low-cost, simple, activities to improve preparedness. This will include training, information sharing and completion of a preparedness plan to embed practices, such as locking doors to delay attackers progress or knowledge on lifesaving treatments that can be administered whilst awaiting emergency services.  The overarching aim will be to ensure spaces are better prepared to respond quickly to evolving situations, have awareness of processes they should follow, be able to make rapid decisions and carry out actions that will save lives. 
  • An enhanced tier will require all the standard tier responses and additionally require a risk assessment to inform the development and implementation of a thorough security plan.  It could include measures such as developing a vigilance and security culture, and / or physical measures like CCTV.  

All measures should be considered to a ‘reasonably practicable’ standard to reduce the risk of attack and its impact, by assessing the balance of risk reduction against the time, money and effort required to achieve a successful level of security preparedness.    

At this stage it is understood that there will be dedicated statutory guidance and support provided from the Government to ensure that spaces can comply.

There will be an inspection and enforcement regime to support the enactment of this Bill, which will be focused on promoting compliance, positive cultural change and issuing fair sanctions where there are serious breaches. 

Who will be responsible?

The Bill places responsibility on the person(s) with control of the space or event.  There is also a requirement for co-operation by those who have aspects of control of the premise or event (e.g., the owner of a premise where they are not the operator) where necessary to deliver requirements. 

For voluntary sector spaces it seems that the onus falls on the Trustees / Owners, and for Hirers / Event organisers to comply with and support the measures.  For CAN, this raises questions about the impact on spaces and venues that are unstaffed (like Village Halls, parks etc run by charities, community groups or social enterprises and local authorities) and places of worship.

What about places of worship?

Places of worship will all be included in the standard tier regardless of capacity because of other activities delivered and funded by the government to reduce their vulnerability to terrorism and hate crime. 

It is unclear if Church Halls, where they are separate from the Church building itself, will be included within the measures for places of worship or categorised alongside Village Halls and community buildings. 

What is being done to make sure the impact is reasonable?

ACRE are, and have been, working with the Home Office, MPs, and the Home Affairs Select Committee as part of their pre-legislative review to ensure that if a Law is introduced, it is proportionate to the risks that apply to small volunteer run venues.  ACRE has published a press statement about their involvement in the Bill and in response to sensationalised news articles. 

Their evidence provided to the Home Affairs Select Committee to inform the pre-legislative review has been published by the Committee and is available here. 

ACRE are very much focussed on highlighting the potential impact on the high number of small, usually volunteer run, spaces, and are keen to ensure that if Halls do become subject to the Standard Tier, that the requirements on Hall hirers would be no more than a two page addendum to the Halls conditions of hire - consistent with other requirements such as fire safety.  

ACRE will be informing the Village Hall Adviser’s Network (for which CAN is the Norfolk member) of any developments, which will then be shared with Halls and Community Spaces. If your Hall or Community Space has engagement with a local MP it is encouraged to make sure they are aware of the potential impact this Bill could have on Halls and ACREs input to the Select Committee.

How can we prepare?

The Bill is far from finalised.  Once the Bill is passed, the Government will draw up regulations.   Many organisations are trying to pre-emptively put together documents that relate to the Bill, however ACRE are waiting for the outcome of the Bill’s passage through parliament before model documents are issued.  If enacted the Bill could affect ACREs Model Hire Agreement as well as potentially creating new documents such as a specific risk assessment.  

In the meantime, the ProtectUK website has generic information and videos which are free to view, although of course not tailored to charities and community run spaces. 

Update - 13th February 2024

A consultation has been published about the Standard Tier of the proposed legislation. The consultation will close on 18th March, and can be found here. We are encouraging any charity with a building that falls into this capacity bracket to respond to the consultation, and recommend considering aspects like:

  • The capacity limits
  • Personal liability and the recruitment of volunteers / Trustees
  • Any concerns about how the legislation relates to events such as park runs or fetes, that take place outside.

Update - 27th July 2023

The Home Affairs Committee has finished its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill and has issued a warning about its implications on small businesses and volunteer-run spaces. 

A re-drafted Bill will be introduced to parliament in Autumn. 

Keeping up to date

We will be keeping our mailing group for Village Halls, Parish Councils, Playing Fields and Recreational Groups updated with news on this Bill.  If you would like to be added to this mailing list, please contact us on office@communityactionnorfolk.org.uk and be sure to include the group you represent.