Duty to protect

Duty to protect

Iain Chorlton, Specialist Services Director at Amulet, advises the higher education sector on Martyn’s Law

Protect Duty, also known as Martyn’s Law, is proposed legislation that will soon be working its way through parliament. The legislation has been named after Martyn Hett, one of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017, and aims to ensure stronger protections against terrorist attacks in public places.

This will be achieved by placing a stronger requirement on those responsible for certain locations to have appropriate measures and mitigations in place in case of a terrorist attack. This includes ensuring that the relevant security teams are better prepared and know what to do in the event of an attack. Improved security systems, better staff training and clearer processes will all help to accomplish these objectives.

The proposed law will impact all publicly accessible locations that meet certain criteria. They are:

  • That the premises is an eligible one – i.e., a building or group of buildings and events with a defined boundary or that share similar activities.
  • 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+

The Martyn’s Law factsheet produced by the Government specifically states education as a key sector that will be impacted should the legislation become law. Those in charge of campus security need to familiarise themselves now with current position of the Protect Duty so that they are fully prepared should it become enshrined in law.

Two-tiered scope
As noted in the bullet points above, all premises that meet a maximum occupancy of 100+ will be impacted by the law, and those with a maximum occupancy of 800+ will be subject to additional requirements.

Businesses and venues in the standard tier (100+ maximum occupancy) will be required to complete free training courses and ensure that security information is shared with all relevant staff, with the end goal to complete a preparedness plan. The hope is that through a few relatively simple steps, staff will be better trained on how to prevent and deal with a terrorist incident. This could include everything from locking doors to prevent the progress of an attacker, to providing lifesaving support while emergency services are on the way.

The high-capacity locations in the enhanced tier (800+ maximum occupancy) will need a risk assessment and security plan that allows security teams to assess the balance of risk reduction against the time, money and effort required to achieve a successful level of security preparedness.

Many University campuses will fall into the enhanced tier.

How to prepare for Martyn’s Law
While we can’t say for certain what the proposed law will specifically compel estate teams to do, we have a pretty good idea from the Protect Duty consultations and factsheet.

All higher education and University sites should already have a robust risk assessment and security plan in place. So for many, this proposed legislation acts as a timely reminder to re-evaluate those plans and ensure they are still relevant.

Furthermore, many Universities are now welcoming more students back to campus as they dial down on remote lectures. Campus occupancy is returning to pre-pandemic levels, which in itself is another good reason to ensure that security processes are up to date.

One area of security that has advanced in recent years – and that may need addressing in existing security plans – is technology. Improved security systems were highlighted by the Government as one way of improving preparedness for a terror attack, and for sites in the enhanced tier, situational awareness software will be a key tool in any security plan.

Harnessing technology to enhance security
University campuses are often sprawling sites comprising numerous buildings and outdoor areas. The ability for all stakeholders to view real-time insight, and communicate with each other, cannot be understated. In the event of a terrorist attack, this type of system could be the difference between averting a crisis or not.

Software can be utilised to record all planning for potential future events, share risk assessments across estates and shareholders, and demonstrate ‘reasonably practicable’ protective security and organisational preparedness measures – exactly what is likely to be required for Martyn’s Law.

Through a centralised platform, all security team members are empowered to track security resources, flag incidents, record key decisions and communicate critical information across all locations in real time.

Critical knowledge can be shared on a continual basis, minimising duplicated, unnecessary or ineffective activity, ensuring all security personnel always have the same understanding on current incident status.

This also allows for reduced corporate level risk and a more effective allocation and use of resources that can help to reduce overall costs.

Improved communication is also a key benefit of real-time situational awareness software. It is able to eliminate the potential for misunderstanding by overhauling communication and coordination efforts. It can guarantee seamless communication and information sharing so that an appropriate, timely and seamless response can be coordinated and delivered in dealing with a variety of potential threats, enhancing critical incident management to counter terrorism efforts.

Without such software, there is a chance that the right information will fail to get to the right people at the right time – an outcome that is simply unacceptable in modern security and safety procedures.

Software, such as Amulet’s Project Blueprint, can provide a live-time picture of operational activity and create a record of decisions taken that may be used to support investigations and enquiries as evidence in the aftermath of incidents. It is the predominant situational awareness tool used by UK emergency services, providing an opportunity to maximise the efficiency of their response in partnership with university security teams. This can also be useful in demonstrating that a sound security policy has been reviewed, practiced and implemented should an audit be required.

This will also be very useful when needing to evidence that a campus is abiding by Protect Duty, as there will be a range of as yet undisclosed sanctions for sites that fail to adhere to the law.

Timeline for Martyn’s Law
As with all proposed legislation, there is no fixed timeline for when it will be introduced to Parliament and when (or if) it will become law. That said, many of the suggested actions within the legislation are best practice that campus security teams should already be implementing.

My advice is that regardless of the legislation and its passage through Government, the education sector should use Martyn’s Law as a catalyst to ensure that risk assessments and security processes are fully updated and airtight. Even if Protect Duty doesn’t become law, educational institutions will be able to ensure that their employees and students are as safe as possible.

For further information please visit www.amulet.co.uk

MEB Media Publishing (UK) Ltd

13 Princess Street,


ME14 1UR

United Kingdom



Our sister publications

Campus Estate Management Magazine



Smart Automation Magazine