May 3, 2023


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IFSEC Interviews

Figen Murray and the journey to Martyn’s Law: “It shocked me that I could go to a venue and just walk in”

The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, otherwise known as Martyn’s Law and which was published in draft form for the first time on 2 May, is set to change the way that certain public locations consider the threat from terrorism. 

IFSEC Insider talks to Figen Murray, the driving force behind the new law – who tragically lost her son Martyn in the Manchester Arena bombing – about the legislation, her journey to making it a reality and why campaigning for change is so important.

FigenMurray-Martyn'sLaw-2318 months after the Manchester attack, Figen Murray attended a concert in the same city – and was stunned at what she found. Despite around 3,000 people in attendance, there were absolutely no security checks.

That was the moment she realised that something had to change.

“Staff were just standing around chatting. It shocked me that after 22 people died in that city, I could still go to a public venue and just walk in. No one checked our tickets, bags, pockets or anything. I was completely floored,” she says.

This realisation marked the start of a campaign that would change the way venues view terrorism. “When I started researching security and found there was no legislation for it, I told my husband that I need to do this by myself – as a Mum”, said Figen. “There are rules on how hot the food needs to be and how many toilets a venue must have – yet there were no rules on security. I just couldn’t believe it.”

Figen’s campaign journey has been enlightening and shocking in equal measure. How has it changed the way she views public events? “When I went to a venue as a layperson and saw people in high vis jackets, I would assume that they were security – but I was wrong. They can be stewards with very little, or no training at all,” she says.

You can also listen to the full interview with Figen Murray and IFSEC Insider Managing Editor, James Moore, in the podcast episode below.


The need for legislative action

Since 2019, which marked the start of a new system flagging the likelihood of a terrorist attack, the threat level in the UK has been either ‘severe’ or ‘substantial.’ Figen feels this level of threat hasn’t been taken seriously enough. “With the terrorism landscape having changed so much, I would have thought that the legislation was kept up to date and that Governments had tightened security. I was surprised that, as a layperson, I had to initiate that,” she says.

Six years on from the Manchester attack and Martyn’s Law has just publication of the first draft, with an expectation to become law early next year. Under a tiered model dependent on capacity, it will require certain businesses, facilities and public spaces to consider the threat of terrorism and adopt mitigation measures.

This protection will be delivered via enhanced security systems, training and clearer processes. The legislation will include a standard tier and an enhanced tier – which will be linked to the activity that takes place at the location.

Figen outlines the detail: “As a very minimum, venue staff will have 45 minutes of free e-learning training to give them a basic understanding of the dangers. We’re also asking venues to do a risk assessment, to walk around the inside and outside of the building, so they are aware of its vulnerabilities – and then take steps to mitigate them.”

The law will see larger venues work more closely with their local authority and call for venues to have a counter-terrorism plan and inform staff, as Figen explains: “This means that if someone came to their building with a weapon, people would know how to behave – they’ll know how to evacuate themselves and others.” Implement evacuation plans.


Figen is now regularly asked to speak at international conferences about Martyn’s Law and her experiences

Despite speaking so eloquently on the topic, Figen knew very little about security before the tragic events of 22 May 2017. Having worked as a counsellor for 23 years, she now holds a master’s degree in counter-terrorism and has been made a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Risk Management (ISRM).

She explains her motivation: “I needed to educate myself. When Martyn died I had so many questions. Why do these people do what they do? What are our governments proactively doing about it? Sadly, I am now much wiser. But, I have all my answers – and much more.”

The Martyn’s Law campaign doesn’t stop with the UK. Figen is regularly called upon to give talks in other countries, including the USA, Australia and Canada – to name a few. She says that the laws around the world need similarly updating. Her speaking events also include students across England, talking about her experience and how her audience can positively influence the world. So far, she has spoken to over 25,000 young people.

“I was told I was going to make companies bankrupt… but people have the right to be kept safe”

Yet the path to change hasn’t always been smooth. Even in the face of criticism, Figen comes back to the importance of security: “I was criticised at the beginning about money and told I was going to make companies bankrupt. I was accused of taking the spontaneity out of people’s lives and causing fear. All of that is nonsense. People have the right to be kept safe,” she says.

As for the practicalities of the new law, Figen suggests that additional funds could be raised by adding a nominal amount to the ticket price: “I was criticised by someone on Twitter when suggesting that people pay an extra 50p for a concert ticket. I always try to work with feedback and put myself in other people’s shoes. But a concert ticket doesn’t include an itemised breakdown of costs – such as cleaning and electricity, so why do you have to tell the customer what that extra 50p is for?” she argues.

Following on from this, Figen emphasises the importance of ringfencing that 50p purely for security expenditure, such as security staff training, wages, equipment or creating additional roles, which venues can then highlight in their annual reporting.

“If I use the example of the Manchester Arena running three concerts a week at half capacity – say 10,000 people – with everyone paying 50p extra, that would generate £750,000 over 50 weeks. That is a lot of money to add to the security budget each year.”

Many experts would argue that new innovations such as new algorithms in CCTV or frictionless access control have a part to play in protecting, securing and mitigating risk – whilst also balancing costs.

Figen takes a similar view: “Yesterday, I was at an event in Manchester where they had mass-screening technology. People don’t even know they’re going through security. Technology is always advancing, so cost can’t be an argument,” she recalls.

Keeping a positive mindset  

There’s no doubt that change is needed. The Manchester Arena Inquiry Report highlighted significant missed opportunities. Figen attended the enquiry most days, yet she doesn’t feel any anger: “All the people who gave evidence know they made mistakes, and they have to get up every morning to face themselves in the mirror. I just feel compassion for those people – it can’t be easy.”

Having a positive mindset means that Figen always tries to look to the future, whilst still keenly feeling the loss of her son. “I’ve always been a person that looks forwards. Everyone who goes into the sector doesn’t do the job for the unsociable hours, but due to a genuine desire to help people,” she says.

“I don’t intend to sound flippant; of course, Martyn died, and I’m really upset that I no longer have him in my life. But I know nobody made mistakes on purpose,” she adds.

After the full details of the final report into the preventability of the attack were not shared freely for security reasons, some have suggested that the inquiry has missed an opportunity for the public to better understand what happened that night. Despite this, Figen has absolute faith in Sir John Saunders – the Chairman of the inquiry – to make the right decisions.


Martyn Hett was one of the 22 people who died in the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017

“He represents the families and if he says he cannot reveal certain details due to national security then I trust him,” she says, with absolute confidence.

Nonetheless, the report serves as a reminder of the very real human cost of terror attacks. 22 people lost their lives and many of the families continue to campaign in the name of their loved ones.

“I hope Martyn would feel that he didn’t die for nothing – his name means something now,” says Figen, remembering her son. “Martyn was a really kind person with a big heart. He always looked after the underdog, and he had an infectious laugh and an incredible sense of humour.”

Support from across the security sector

Figen’s talks about her family being supportive of her quest for change: “My husband puts up with my travelling constantly. He never complains. I campaign to keep my grandkids safe in the future as well,” she explains.

She also warmly talks of the security industry’s support of the campaign: “I’ve made so many new friends. On the whole, not only has the security sector come on board with Martyn’s Law, but they’ve wrapped their coat around me, and that’s given me the confidence to continue my work. I have a whole army behind me – and we will succeed together,” she recalls.

As for the future, with threats changing and security solutions ever-evolving, Figen is determined for legislation to keep up with the times. And for her fellow industry experts, who are similarly passionate about protecting people, she has this message:

“Never stop. Always try to be one step ahead of the game. I get the sense from my learnings that terrorists always seem to be a step or two ahead of us. Therefore, none of us should be complacent. We always need to come up with new ideas and be prepared.”

The first draft of Martyn’s Law – officially known as the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill – was published on 2 May 2023, almost six years after the tragic events of the Manchester Arena attack.


Listen to the IFSEC Insider podcast!

Each month, the IFSEC Insider (formerly IFSEC Global) Security in Focus podcast brings you conversations with leading figures in the physical security industry. Covering everything from risk management principles and building a security culture, to the key trends ahead in tech and initiatives on diversity and inclusivity, the podcast keeps security professionals up to date with the latest hot topics in the sector.

Available online, and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, tune in for an easy way to remain up to date on the issues affecting your role.


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