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November 27, 2020


State of Physical Access Trend Report 2024

Martyn's Law

Martyn’s Law in a security convergent world

Paul Barnard, Director at the Security Institute and named in IFSEC Global’s Top Influencers in Security & Fire for 2020, discusses the importance of the incoming legislation designed to improve security at public venues – otherwise known as Martyn’s Law. Paul also highlights why a converged physical-cyber approach must be taken into account, as the holistic threat to public space security continues to evolve.

Paul Barnard, Director at the Security Institute

The Government announced in the Spring consultation on a new Protect Duty, to improve safety and security at public venues and spaces.  While the pandemic has caused Government to push the consultation and legislative further into the future, the proposed legislation will require owners and operators of such places to put in place proportionate security measures, to keep people safe from terrorism.

These measures have been driven in no small part by Fiegen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett, was sadly killed in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack. The campaign she has run – which has consequently become known as Martyn’s Law – has been nothing short of inspiring. Her work as a mother who has lost a son in a terrorist attack is exemplary and quite humbling.

I doubt there are many of us out there who have lost loved ones in a terrorist incident, so before I begin this piece, my heart goes out to those who have been affected by such violence. These sudden, mindless attacks arise in seconds and it is often difficult to comprehend and understand the motivations of the those involved.

Guarding against complacency

There is a question to pose about the ‘Duty’ – does this proposed legislation go far enough or could we, as security specialists, do better and modernise how we protect and prepare our public venues and spaces in a proportionate but joined up holistic way?

Over the years, we have introduced terrific initiatives designed to protect us from terrorism, such as Project Griffin and Project Argus and Action Counters Terrorism Awareness.

Terrorism is not new, for generations it has been a real a present danger to our shores. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) warned after the 1984 Brighton bombing, in an attack on the seat of power which came so close to killing senior members of the UK Government:

“Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be luck once. You will have to be lucky always.”

Great strides have been made, as intelligence plays a key role and we have seen a reduction in such violence on the mainland. However, we were reminded recently of the threat from the likes of the Continuity IRA, with a bomb discovered on a lorry bound for Scotland on a ferry. Fortunately, the attack was foiled.

Such events should act as a reminder that although ‘capacity and capability’ of terrorist groups change, we should never take anything for granted, especially with politics shifting the sands of the peace process and Good Friday agreement. Sinn Fein recently called for those who want to bring back the violent past, to turn away from that path, so it will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Recently, ISIS narratives from one person, inspired attacks at Fishmongers Hall, London Bridge and in Streatham, where two people were killed and several injured. What linked these two attacks was the teachings of a radical Muslim preacher, Abdullah al-Faisal, who was recently extradited to the United States from a Jamaican prison on terror charges. He has been accused of spreading his messages of hate via the world wide web and other social media.

Worryingly, toxic narratives like this now exist in cyberspace and will be there to inspire generations to come.

Recent terrorist attacks by incarcerated persons on prison officers, only strengthen the calls to protect our public spaces even more. These incidents demonstrate how easy it is to forget that ideologies of hate extend far beyond the here and now, and have a longevity which we must acknowledge and counter.

Legislating against the evolving threat

The consultation on Martyn’s Law provides us with the opportunity to become intelligent agents of change, without diluting at all, the brilliant intentions of the legislative proposals.

Traditional public spaces are merging with privately owned ‘public space’, where landowners and developers of smart buildings are growing new exciting brands which expand these public areas even more. They are encouraging the public to enter as casual visitors to enjoy and relax, and sometimes for business reasons!

When the Security Industry Authority (SIA) was launched following the Private Security Industry Act of 2001, security officers were mainly behind closed doors in corporate buildings, inside venues or outside club/pub doors. This is a far cry from where we are today, with security officers ‘policing’ the public space in vast numbers, like never before.

Security continues to change dramatically – not only in the public spaces we now manage, but also in the expectation of customer service delivery and understanding of tech.

In around public spaces, tech is making our lives ever easier; we are better connected, informed and we have better experiences.


The convergence of cyber and physical security is a marked evolution in our collective journey; the advent of 5G, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented and Virtual Reality, bring great commercial opportunities and rewards, with superb interaction and exciting customer experiences.

In a proportionate and holistic way, could we better secure our experiences in public spaces, to truly make the most of Martyn’s Law and ensure we futureproof a legacy for generations to come?

With the advancement of technology in the convergence space, services such as CCTV and access control systems will need to be risk managed differently in the context of Martyn’s Law. While in the past attacks on CCTV and access control would have to carried out at close range, cyber-attacks can now be delivered on these devices from the other side of the world.

To achieve this widening of Martyn’s Law, the Cabinet Office’s Security Policy Framework, and NCSC guidance on Operational Technology, could support in providing a holistic approach and broaden safety requirements for consideration across our public spaces.

READ: The growing significance of Converged Security Centres

For instance, our use of WiFi in public and private places should always remain private, but if criminals are using it ‘under the radar’ and between the ‘grey space’ to carry out attacks and threaten users, surely we need to take this into account when discussing the protection of public spaces?

This convergence of physical and cyber security in public spaces and venues could also assist us to deliver a principle akin to the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) across the private sector – the simple tried and tested principles of, co-location, communication, coordination, joint understanding of risk and shared situational awareness, for owners, security, facilities and local authorities.

Final thoughts

I was in Dallas a few years ago at an ASIS Security Conference, where Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, was being interviewed about security.

His view was that his responsibility to protect people started when the paying public arrived at the bus stations, car parks and the subway/train stations. He saw it as his duty to protect them on their journey to his venue, at the venue and when they leave the venue to go home. His security teams patrolled those areas, with police consent, well before and after the event.

It’s that sense of responsibility of ‘doing the right thing’ to protect people from harm that should provide us with an opportunity to ensure the legacy of Martyn’s Law is beyond just physical security, in a real, tangible, futur proofed way.

In a 1935 House of Commons speech Winston Churchill said: “Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong — these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”

It’s a fact that we want to enjoy our public spaces, but we should do so in the knowledge that proportionate, transparent and effective security solutions have been designed ‘in’, and not left simply as ‘advisory’ footnotes at the bottom of a page.

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