Counter-terror consultation hailed as 'major stride' towards making UK safer

26 February 2021, 05:37

People grieve at a memorial of the Manchester Arena attack
People grieve at a memorial of the Manchester Arena attack. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A mother whose son was killed in the Manchester Arena attack has hailed a government consultation on proposed counter-terror legislation as a "major stride" towards making the UK safer.

Ministers launched a national consultation on Friday over a proposed new counter-terror Bill - 'Martyn's Law' - that would be named after one of the victims of the bombing.

The government's planned 'Protect Duty' would make it a legal requirement for public places to ensure they are prepared for and can protect the public from terrorist attacks.

Read more: Jailed terrorist Hashem Abedi admits helping plan Manchester Arena bombing for first time

It will draw on lessons that have been learned after previous attacks and the proposal has been driven by a campaign in memory of Martyn Hett.

Figen Murray, mother of Mr Hett, 29, who was one of the 22 people killed in the May 2017 Manchester Arena atrocity, has campaigned for the law.

Martyn Hett, 29, was one of the 22 people killed in the May 2017 atrocity
Martyn Hett, 29, was one of the 22 people killed in the May 2017 atrocity. Picture: PA

She said: "Today is a major stride towards making our country safer from terror attacks. I want to thank the Government for taking this step.

"To make Martyn's Law a reality is of huge relief and I look forward to making a lasting difference with all of those who have supported it.

"It's crucial this law is brought in and applies to all public venues because protecting the public from terror attacks is a priority and there cannot be exceptions.

"My focus will always be to stop such violent acts from happening again because Martyn and the other 21 victims cannot have lost their lives for nothing."

An 18-week consultation into the plans begins on Friday, seeking contributions over which sorts of venues should be bound by the law, and what compliance measures will be required.

Private and public owners of venues and sites currently have no obligation to act on free advice from specialist counter-terrorism officers about threats of a terrorist attack and how to mitigate the risk.

The proposal had been intended to go to consultation last spring but the Covid-19 outbreak meant plans to canvass opinion among the leisure, entertainment and hospitality sectors were placed on hold.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "I have heard first hand from those who have sadly lost loved ones in horrific terror attacks, and thank them for their tireless work to ensure others do not share their tragedy.

"This Government has already taken significant steps to amend our powers and strengthen the tools for dealing with the developing terrorist threats we face, and we will always take the strongest possible action to protect our national security.

"That is why we want all organisations responsible for public venues and spaces to put public safety and security first."

The public inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing is due to resume next week.

Lawyers for Showsec, the firm responsible for stewarding and security at the venue, previously told the inquiry it was not to blame if its staff "missed opportunities" on the night of the suicide bombing.

Homegrown terrorist Salman Abedi died in the blast when he detonated a backpack filled with explosives, murdering 22 innocent bystanders and injuring hundreds of others.

His younger brother, conspirator Hashem Abedi, was last year convicted of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.

He was given 24 life sentences with a minimum term of 55 years before he can be considered for parole.

A spokesperson on behalf of the Counter Terrorism Policing Business Independent Advisory Group and Counter Terrorism Business Information Exchange welcomed the consultation initiative.

“It is in the public interest for the government and business to work together to ensure people are as protected as possible when visiting venues, retail areas and other publicly accessible spaces," the spokesperson said.

"This initiative gives us an opportunity to make sure that we are doing all we can to keep people safe.

“We look forward to collaborating with the government in order to provide the public with the best possible protection against those who wish us harm.”