New Protect Duty could impact charities

The government is consulting on proposals to impose a new duty on anyone responsible for a publicly accessible location, potentially impacting charities and places of worship.

A summer fete in the grounds of a large church.

A summer fete in the church of St Cross, Winchester. There are concerns about the impact of the legislation on places of worship and pubic events.  (Photo: Henry Burrows via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Annette McGill

The government has proposed a new law that requires owners and operators of public spaces and venues to put in place measures to protect members of the public from terrorist attacks.

The new duty will apply to venues that have a capacity for 100 or more visitors or employ 250 or more staff. It will apply for owners and operators of publicly accessible locations – whether businesses or other organisations operating in permanent premises or the organisers of temporary events, as well as as public authorities.

It is likely to apply to many charities, including churches, sports clubs, village halls, historic buildings and visitor attractions. 

The new law would require venue operators to consider the risks of a terrorist attack and take proportionate and reasonable measures to prepare for, and protect the public from, such an attack. Measures required could include: 

  • increased physical security 
  • staff training 
  • incident response plans and 
  • regular practice exercises for staff on what to do during an attack.

The government has opened a consultation on the new Protect Duty. The consultation is open to the public and closes on July 2, 2021.

"costly and onerous"

There are concerns that the wide reach of the legislation could have unintended consequences. The Archdeacon of London, The Ven. Luke Miller, has called for a rethink of the proposals, saying that the new duty will be both “very costly and onerous”.

Miller chairs the Faith Sector Panel of the London Resilience Forum, which helps London’s faith communities’ respond to terrorist attacks. Miller has published a blog setting out detailed concerns about the potential impact of the legislation on places of worship, including questions about insurance requirements and the role of volunteers. He has called on readers to reply to the consultation to resist the application of this legislation to churches without major changes.

The Home Office says it is "mindful of the impact a legislative change could have for some organisations." But it says must be balanced against the need to ensure effective consideration of public security, and the implementation of reasonable security measures, in order to improve public security.

The government says that if a Protect Duty were introduced, it would "recognise the need" to enhance Government support for all organisations within its scope.

The government legislation draws on proposals put forward by families of those killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.  The mother of Martyn Hett, one of 22 people killed at the Arena bombing, has been lobbying the government to impose a duty to take anti-terrorism measures under a so-called “Martyn’s law”.