Introducing the possible ‘Protect Duty’ legislation
Changes to public space counter-terrorism legislation

The change in terrorist threat in the UK over the past few years has seen a movement from terrorists using large vehicle bombs against infrastructure to less sophisticated incidents using low explosives; knives and vehicles as a weapon; where people are the intended target. This has seen an increase in attacks at publically accessible locations where members of the public are the targets.

As a result of the changing threat of terrorism on 26th February 2021, the UK Home Office launched, a public consultation1 to consider how legislation can be introduced to improve the protection of the public from terrorist attacks; called the Protect Duty (part of the UK CONTEST Strategy2).1

This should establish a new legislative standard for those organisations in scope of the duty, to implement and evidence a baseline counter-terrorism strategy, policy and procedure within their organisation. This will likely be enforced with sanctions and fines, and should there be an event, and the organisation was found not to have implemented the standard, more serious offences which could include criminal / corporate manslaughter.

The proposed scope breaks down into the following components2;

Scope of the Duty

  • Owners and operators of publicly accessible venues with the capacity of one hundred persons or more.
  • Large organisations employing two hundred and fifty staff or more that operate publicly accessible locations (PAL’s), formerly referred to as Crowded Places.
  • A consideration for the Protect duty to be used to improve security considerations and outcomes of public spaces. These are open locations which usually have no clear boundaries or well-defined exit or entrance points, such as city centre squares, bridges, beaches, busy thoroughfares or parks.

Impact for Education, Health and wider Public Sector

Many reading this article may fall within the scope of the Protect Duty and will likely be expected to consider terrorist threats and implement “reasonably practicable” and appropriate protective security and organisational preparedness measures. “Reasonably practicable” is a well-established term in Fire Safety and Health and Safety legislation. In the same way, many organisations already consider fire safety and health and safety, it is reasonable for them to also consider security risks.

The mitigating measures would vary depending on the size and nature of the organisation but should include;

  • Risk & Vulnerability Assessment - Access information regarding threats, assess the risks and identify vulnerabilities within their organisation
  • Implement Risk Controls - Implement mitigation measures and risk controls where appropriate, in order to reduce the highest and most impactful risks
  • Staff Training & Awareness Programs - Implement freely available ACT (Act Counters Terrorism) staff training and awareness programs, evidence the training (consider training records) and have a minimum % of staff trained
  • Counter-Terrorism Plans - Establish plans, and ensure all staff are aware of and practice these in response to different types of incidents.

Good security practices for most will not be about costly physical security measures, but for larger organisations and venues, with more complex operating environments, considerations and mitigating measures will be more significant.

UK Government Support

There will be a need to establish a range of appropriate advice and guidance for those in scope so they understand the terrorist threat and attack methodologies, reasonably practicable mitigating measures, and processes to follow, to ensure good security outcomes are achieved. This will build on existing measures such as the Action Counters Terrorism (ACT) e-learning modules, the ACT app and The National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) information sharing platform, which will centralise all counter-terrorism information and advice for business and the public instead of this being spread across multiple departments and agencies.

Compliance Options, Inspection and Enforcement

Inspection, enforcement and compliance will be undertaken with sanction fines deployed by inspectors as required (additional work is ongoing to develop the nature of an inspection and enforcement regime and who would undertake this function).

Wider Implications

The Protect Duty will establish a “reasonably practicable” best practice standard that is highly likely to expand across non-Protect related organisations as it sets a minimum standard, best practice baseline for counter-terrorism, that any organisation would be hard pressed to justify why they have not implemented, even if they do not come directly under the Protect scope.

How can Gallagher Help?

Gallagher Crisis Management team have a long history of providing practical support for organisations wishing to gain a better understanding of their security threats and how to manage them. To ensure our clients in the UK continue to receive dedicated support in this critically important area of public safety our Crisis Management team are now actively engaging with stakeholders and building on work already undertaken in the United States where a Crisis Protect solution already exists.

If you would to find out more about the proposals or are considering how your organisation can manage the ever-changing security threats the nation sadly faces please contact your usual Gallagher representative.