Stop being naive on terror attack risk, ex-top cop tells MPs over Martyns Law

Prince William arrives in Manchester to visit victims of terror attack

A former high-ranking UK police officer specialising in counter-terrorism has backed the introduction of draft legislation dubbed “Martyn’s Law.

And Lloyd Major has argued any attempt by MPs to water down the Terrorism (Protection Of Premises) Bill would be “naive and out of touch”.

Martyn’s Law, which is making its way through Parliament, is named after Martyn Hett, killed at the age of 29 together with 21 other people in the Manchester Arena bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017.

Martyn’s mother, Figen Murray, has dedicated her life to helping stop future terrorist attacks – and was awarded an OBE last year.

The Home Affairs Select Committee is calling on the government to scale the proposed safety measures and base them on risk, rather than on the size of a venue, arguing such measures in the current draft of the bill would “place a significant and disproportionate burden on smaller venues, while failing to ensure adequate safety measures at all public events at risk of terror attacks”.

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However, Mr Major, CEO of security software company Halo Solutions, said: “Figen Murray is absolutely correct in her assessment of the Martyn’s Law legislation and that the government must proceed with strong and robust legislation.

“Any weakening or reduction of the proposed measures in the draft Terrorism (Protection Of Premises) Bill, also known as “Martyn’s Law’, would potentially put the public at even greater risk of another terror attack, as terrorists would merely switch their tactics to focus on softer targets without such counter terrorism measures in place.”

Protecting the public from terror attacks needed to be “more of a priority”, Mr Major stressed.

He explained: “It is vital that all public venues and premises have counter terrorism measures and training in place to protect staff and members of the public against the threat of an attack.

“Any weakening of the proposed measures in the draft bill would be counterproductive to the very foundation of Martyn’s Law.

“Time and time again we hear the words ‘lessons will be learned’ and the reality is that lessons are rarely ever learned, and the same tragic mistakes are repeated.”

Mr Major, formerly employed by the National Counter Terrorism Police Operations Centre, continued: “Terrorism does not discriminate against a small pub or a large stadium venue.

“We have witnessed a dynamic range of attacks from the Soho pub bombings to the London Borough Market, Manchester Arena attacks and many more. It is our collective responsibility to all be more vigilant, prepared and aware of terrorism after the tragic impact of all these attacks.

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“All business owners, live music venues, bars, pubs and restaurants need to work together collectively to protect the public and their staff against terrorism. We do it for Health and Safety, this is no different and certainly no more onerous or costly.”

He added: “Have MPs not understood the severity of incidents such as Hillsborough, the Manchester Arena bombing and the countless other foiled terror attacks?

“It is naive to think that the proposed measures in the new pre-legislation of Martyn’s Law would fail to make a difference to public safety.

“You simply cannot compromise on public safety when you see the devastation caused by a terrorist incident. All businesses, no matter how small or large, have a moral duty of care and safety to their staff and the public to protect them against danger and the threat of terrorism.”

Speaking last month, Dame Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North and the chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee, said: “We must do all we can to ensure venues are equipped to react to terror threats.

“But the government must ensure that measures are based on an accurate assessment of risk and not arbitrary capacity figures.

“We are also concerned that this bill as currently drafted would fail to make a significant impact in preventing or mitigating the effects of terrorism.”

In accordance with the Bill as it was currently worded, a village hall would be required to take safety precautions while an open-air farmers market in a city centre would not, Dame Diana said.

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