The proposed ‘Protect Duty’ would seek to improve protective security and organisational preparedness at a wide range of publicly accessible locations.
There is already significant work across Government to provide advice and guidance to those responsible for publicly accessible locations. Whilst much good work is done to improve security and preparedness measures, this is undertaken on a voluntary basis by owners and operators. Legislation would provide for a certainty of responsibility, and a greater consistency of measures and effect.
The Government’s intention to take forward a consultation process was announced by the Security Minister on 24 February 2020. Due to the implications of COVID this was temporarily paused, but an 18 week consultation process will now be launched by the end of February 2021.
The consultation will seek the views of organisations on the following issues:
- Who would a Duty apply to?
- What would a proposed Duty require stakeholders to do?
- How should compliance work?
- How would Government support those affected by a Duty?
The specific criteria will be considered through the consultation exercise and consideration of responses, but broadly a Duty would apply to owners and operators of public venues, large organisations, and those responsible for public spaces.
- Owners and/or operators of publicly accessible venues (threshold related); and
- Large organisations that operate at publicly accessible locations (threshold related).
The consultation will consider if these are the right criteria and thresholds.
There is also consideration as to whether a Protect Duty should be used to improve security considerations and outcomes at public spaces (open public locations which usually have no clear boundaries or well-defined entrance / exit points e.g. city centre squares, bridges or busy thoroughfares, parks, and beaches).
A Duty would potentially require those in scope to consider terrorist threats, and consider 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, and in the same way many organisations already consider fire safety and health and safety requirements, it is reasonable for them to also consider security matters.
Mitigating measures would vary depending on the size and nature of an organisation, but for those at the lower end of scope, we envisage that they will access information regarding threats, consider freely available staff training and awareness programmes, and ensure all staff are aware of (and practice) their roles in response to different types of incidents. Good security practices for most are not about costly physical security measures. For larger organisations and venues with more complex operating environments, considerations and mitigating measures would be more significant.
There will be a need to establish a range of appropriate advice and guidance for those in scope so they understand terrorist threats 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 e-learning modules, the ACT App, and the planned Information Sharing Platform. Inspection of compliance will be undertaken, with sanctions (fines) deployed by an inspectorate if required. Further work is required to develop an inspection and enforcement regime, and to consider who would undertake this function.
The legislation would potentially apply (and the consultation be open) across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as national security is a reserved matter. There is ongoing work with the Devolved Administrations, in particular to consider potential delivery mechanisms which would likely involve devolved functions.
The Office for Security and Counter Terrorism