Following the publication of the results of a consultation into Protect Duty the mother who led the campaign for better venue security says she fears anti-terror legislation will be watered down before it becomes law.
Figen Murray OBE tells Exhibition News Editor Emily Wallin her fears.
Figen Murray says she was paralysed by a lack of knowledge about terrorism when her son was killed in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack.
“Terrorism became my enemy, not the bomber, but terrorism itself. It was something I didn’t understand. I just wanted the knowledge. In my view this happened elsewhere in the world,” she says.
Her determination to understand led her to campaign for Martyn’s Law – a consistent set of rules to protect the public from terrorist attacks.
The government now intends to implement Protect Duty laws this year which will place a legal obligation on venues to tackle terrorism. But after a consultation on the proposed legislation, Murray says she is shocked to learn only half of venues currently have anti-terror risk assessments in place.
She says: “The biggest thing that jumped out and caused alarm with me was that only 50% said they had counter terrorism measures in place. That figure told me how important education is.
“The other thing that concerns me is the language the government is using – words like recommendation or optional – that worries me.
“It has to be legislation that people have to adhere to. It can’t be a half-way house. There was also some resistance in terms of penalties. If you breach GDPR companies are fined thousands of pounds, health and safety too – if someone is killed or seriously injured in your premises you can be fined a lot of money. Why should terrorism be any different?
“If people are taking adequate measures to keep staff and customers safe then it should not be treated any different.”
Murray, 60, was a therapist before her son Maryn Hett was killed in the Manchester Arena attack. Since then she has become an ardent campaigner. Last year she completed a masters degree in counter terrorism and was made OBE for her services to counter terrorism in the New Year’s Honours.
Talking about her degree, Murray says: “I just had so many questions in my head about terrorism. It has answered all my questions and a lot more. The year after Martyn died I started going round schools, I kept thinking ‘surely this must be an issue we created as a society?’. By the end of the two-year masters I was correct. Now, I very strongly feel terrorism is societal issue and needs to be dealt with effectively as a society. Gone are the times we can say government, police or counter terrorism is at fault. We all as a society need to co-police ourselves.
“I believe the more resilient a nation becomes and more tools we have as a nation the better we understand.”
There is currently no legal requirement for venues to implement counter terrorism measures – but the Protect Duty would make it the law for venues – most likely with capacities of more than 100- to comply. The results of the consultation, published in January, found that half of respondents were favour of an inspectorate but highlighted concerns about ensuring measure were proportionate and two thirds disagreed with the government’s estimates of costs. In addition, 55% said they currently access government counter-terrorism advice and only 50% currently carry out terrorism risk assessments.
Minister for Security and Borders Damian Hinds MP said: “It is right that those responsible for public places should take measures to protect the public and to prepare their staff. However, the responses also highlighted the challenge of which organisations should be in the scope, and what would constitute proportionate security measures.”
Murray says that a legal responsibility is essential to make all venues safe.
“If people are liable and punishable at boardroom level then it will be taken more seriously,” she says.
“It has to go right across the board, police do their bit and keep up to date, same applies government, MI5 and the security industry as a whole. The whole sector needs a rethink. The SIA really need to update training and constantly update training. You can’t start a training course and never update it. Everybody across the board needs to work together – an information sharing platform will be crucial.
“That includes the general public, because the general public are naïve to terrorism. I used to go to big events and security was never in my thoughts.
“You see cameras and you assume someone’s watching but that might not be case. Or they may not be properly trained. You see people in high-vis jackets and assume they’re security but they might be stewards.
“I didn’t expect that absolutely every single person was going to agree, but cost implications always seem to get in the way. There are a lot of things that can make a difference that don’t cost much, having a plan in place, looking at what details of events you publish on your website, knowing where there’s a back door. Things like the Action Counter Terrorism (ACT) e-learning are only an hour.”
Reflecting on her honour, Murray is humble. She says: “It is bitter sweet. I don’t do it because I want to be recognised. I do it because I feel I fear for future generations and I want to set it right. I feel so passionate about talking to young people about the dangers of radicalisation.”
So far Murray has spoken to more than 14,000 children – but she says she hopes to speak personally to 100,00 this year. It sounds a bold target but given the determination she has shown so far, one she’ll no doubt achieve.
“I don’t believe a terrorist is born. Something happens to them,” she concludes.
“If I just reach one person then for me that is a success. It only takes one person to put a suicide vest on and destroy lives. Our lives were destroyed.”
This feature first appeared in the March issue of Exhibition News.