In December 2022, the Government announced details for the Protect Duty, now to be known as ‘Martyn’s Law’ in tribute of Martyn Hett, who was killed alongside 21 others in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017. The legislation is set to become law in 2023.

Why do we need Martyn’s Law?

14 terror attacks in the UK since 2017, causing deaths and casualties amongst people going about their everyday lives.

The terrorist threat we currently face is diverse, and continually evolving. It remains difficult to predict which locations could be targeted by terrorists with attempts being harder to spot and harder to stop.

There is a need to improve security and ensure robust, proportionate, and consistent measures at public places to make sure we can better prepare, in light of possible future attacks.

Without legal compulsion, counter terrorism security efforts often fall behind legally required activities. The prioritisation, consideration and application of security processes and measures is currently inconsistent.

What will Martyn’s Law do?

Martyn’s Law will keep people safe, enhancing national security and reducing the risk to the public from terrorism by the protection of public venues.

It will place a requirement on those responsible for certain locations to consider the threat from terrorism and implement appropriate and proportionate mitigation measures.

The legislation will ensure parties are prepared, ready to respond and know what to do in the event of an attack. Better protection will be delivered through enhanced security systems, staff training, and clearer processes.

Who will be in scope?

Premises will fall within the scope of the Duty where “qualifying activities” take place. This will include locations for purposes such as health, entertainment and leisure, retail, food and drink, museums and galleries, sports grounds, public areas of local and central government buildings, visitor attractions, temporary events, Places of Worship and education.

It is proposed that the Duty will apply to eligible locations which are either: a building (including collections of buildings used for the same purposes, e.g., a campus); or location/event (including a temporary event) that has a defined boundary, allowing capacity to be known. Eligible locations whose maximum occupancy meets the above specified thresholds will be then drawn into the relevant tier.

Therefore, premises will be drawn into the scope of the Duty if they meet the following three tests:

  • That the premises is an eligible one – i.e., building or event with a defined boundary.
  • That a qualifying activity takes place at the location; and
  • That the maximum occupancy of the premises meets a specified threshold – either 100+ or 800+
How will it work?

The Bill will impose a duty on the owners and operators of certain locations to increase their preparedness for and protection from a terrorist attack by requiring them to take proportionate steps, depending on the size and nature of the activities that take place there. A tiered model will be used.

  • A standard tier will drive good preparedness outcomes. Duty holders will be required to undertake simple activities to improve protective security and preparedness. This will apply to qualifying locations with a maximum capacity of over 100.
  • An enhanced tier will see additional requirements placed on high-capacity locations in recognition of the potential catastrophic consequences of a successful attack. This will apply to locations with a capacity of over 800 people at any time.
Who will it apply to?

Premises will fall within the scope of Martyn’s Law where “qualifying activities” take place. This will include locations for purposes such as entertainment and leisure, retail, food and drink, museums and galleries, sports grounds, public areas of local and central Government buildings (e.g., town halls), visitor attractions, temporary events, Places of Worship, health and education.

Eligible locations whose maximum occupancy meets the above specified thresholds will be then drawn into the relevant tier.

There will be some limited exclusions and exemptions from the Duty. This includes locations where transport security regulations already apply; and those that are vacant over a reasonable period or are permanently closed.

What will the standard tier be asked to do?

Standard Duty holders will need to undertake easy and simple activities to meet their obligations. This will include completion of free training, awareness raising and cascading of information to staff and completion of a preparedness plan.

The aim is to ensure staff are better prepared to respond quickly to evolving situations, aware of what processes they should follow, able to make rapid decisions and carry out actions that will save lives. This could be as simple as locking doors to delay attackers progress and access whilst guiding staff and customers to alternative exits. It could also enable lifesaving treatment to be administered by staff whilst awaiting the arrival of emergency services.

What will enhanced tier be asked to do?

A risk assessment and security plan, considered to a ‘reasonably practicable’ standard, will be required. This will allow Duty holders to assess the balance of risk reduction against the time, money and effort required to achieve a successful level of security preparedness – a recognised standard in other regulatory regimes (including Fire and Health and Safety).

What about locations run by volunteers?

Government intended for places of worship to receive bespoke treatment under the duty, in reflection of the existing range of mitigation activities delivered and funded by Government to reduce their vulnerability to terrorism and hate crime. All places of worship will be placed within the standard tier of the Duty regardless of their capacity, barring a small cohort across all faiths that charge tourists for entry and/or hire out the site for large commercial events.

Charities, community groups and social enterprises own and operate a broad range of locations (museums, national trust sites, sizeable public venues e.g., the royal opera house and national theatre). Some organisations also hire out premises to others for various purposes.  As most locations owned or operated by charitable organisations, community groups and social enterprises will likely fall below the 800+ capacity threshold, Government considers the requirements to be proportionate.

How will Martyn’s Law be enforced?

An inspection capability will be established to seek to educate, advise, and ensure compliance with the Duty. Where necessary, the inspectorate will use a range of sanctions to ensure that breaches are effectively dealt with.

Will Martyn’s Law apply to all of the UK?

The legislation will apply across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as national security is a reserved matter for the UK Government.

When will the Protect Duty become law?

It is not possible to give a date. There will be a lead in time allowing for those captured by the Duty to prepare for commencement, and as soon as the parliamentary timetable is known this will be set out.

How will my business be supported on Martyn’s Law?

A new online platform has been developed by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO), Home Office and Pool Reinsurance to support all those seeking to enhance their protective security. ProtectUK is a central, consolidated hub for trusted guidance, advice, learning and engagement with experts in security and Counter Terrorism. It will serve as the ‘go to’ resource for free, 24/7 access the latest information on protective security and will be regularly updated with new engaging content and increased functionality.


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