What is Protect Duty?

What is protect duty? UK Bill to improve safety and security at public venues. It’s a response to a number of terrorist incidents in public spaces, in particular the Manchester Arena bombing. Moreover, it forms part of the government’s counter terrorism strategy. 

Because legislation is not expected until 2023, the below only reflects a range of views from interested parties.

security officer on patrol

Who does it effect?

It will effect more than 500,000 organisations:

Stadiums

Public venues with a capacity of 100 persons or more

Corporations effected by terrorism legislation

Large organisations with 250 staff or more with publicly accessible locations

Public spaces effected by terrorism legislation

Public spaces (eg. parks, beaches, thoroughfares, bridges, town/city squares and pedestrianised areas).

What are the requirements?

It will mean public venues, large organisations and public spaces will need to:

  • Use government and police guidance to consider terrorist threats to the public and staff at publicly accessible locations
  • Adjust their systems and processes to account for these threats
  • Implement ‘reasonably practicable’ protective security and organisational preparedness measures
  • Develop a plan to deal with a terrorist attack

Helpfully, Aon gives more clarity:

  • Train staff to recognise and respond to a potential threat
  • Install first aid resources
  • Develop plans to include shelter, evacuation and invacuation 
  • Implement physical and procedural security to limit an attacker’s freedom of movement
  • Consider technology such as SIRV, to help identify potential threats, limit the opportunity for an attack and coordinate a response to an attack

We expect lockdown, lone shooter and bomb threat procedures (available here) to form part of these plans. 

Who assesses the terrorist threat?

It is not clear who is an appropriate threat assessor or who is responsible for legislative compliance. For example, compliance could be down to a security company or the landlord. In any event, a qualified security consultant is one option for a threat assessment.

Legislation could follow the fire risk assessment requirement. Therefore, a ‘responsible person‘ would perform the threat assessment.

What is a terrorist threat?

Terrorism is the use of violence to produce a climate of fear to serve a political aim. Protect UK identifies the following threats:

  • Self-Initiated terrorists (S-ITs)
  • Terrorist cyber threat
  • Threat from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism
  • Threat from drones in the UK
  • Terrorist use of firearms
  • Directed and enabled attacks
  • Complex attacks

Terrorist threats emerge

Although terrorism is defined as a violent act to achieve a political aim, what counts as ‘political’ can change. For example, environmental concerns are now the most frequent motivation for protest in the UK (see our Protests in London research). However, it’s not currently aligned with a left/right wing UK political party. But, the Capitol Hill insurrection shows how the politicisation of topics (such as environmentalism) can move them from protest to civil unrest and terrorism. 

Map Protest in London June 21 to June 2022 by SIRV

What’s the impact on small organisations?

For small organisations, it’s likely the preparedness measures will mean little or no cost. Such as:

  • Train staff to be aware of threats, likely attack, methods and how to respond. For example, train staff on how to spot and respond to hostile reconnaissance.
  • The organisation’s response to different attack types is regularly updated and exercised.

This requirement follows a similar process to a fire risk assessment.

Conclusion: What is Protect Duty?

Because Protect Duty is not yet legislation its full form is not yet clear. However, owing to the consultation process, the security and safety community believes it has a good idea of what it will involve.

Of course, questions remain: Such as, who will undertake threat assessments. But, with tough economic times ahead, the cost burden of Protect Duty is likely to be an important factor.

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Protests in London June 2021 to June 2022

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