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March 4, 2024

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Government launches consultation on proposed Counter-Terrorism Bill

Fieldfisher’s Beth Thompson, Associate, and Andrew Sanderson, Partner, provide an update on the proposed Counter-Terrorism Bill, where the Government has called for responses for its policymaking consultation, and an overview on what this new strategy could mean for event safety.

On 5 February 2024, Security Minister, Tom Tugendhat MBE, unveiled a pivotal step in the UK Government’s counter-terrorism strategy by announcing a six-week public consultation into the Draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill (“the Bill”). The consultation remains open for all individuals and businesses to respond to until Monday 18 March 2024.

Beth Thompson, Associate at Fieldfisher

As covered in previous articles by SHP, the new legislation proposes a structured approach to protecting public spaces against the threat of terrorism by creating two distinct tiers of premises: a standard tier (i.e. those with a capacity between 100-799 individuals) and an enhanced tier (i.e. those with a capacity over 800 individuals).

Standard tier premises are at the heart of the current consultation, which seeks the views of owners and operators of smaller premises that could fall within the Bill’s scope. Through the consultation, the Government hopes to ensure that the new requirements do not place “unnecessary burdens on smaller businesses” and “are proportionate and clear, whilst ensuring that [they] achieve their primary objective of this tier: to implement simple procedures which could reduce harm and save lives in the event of an attack”.

The consultation

The consultation can be completed online in less than 15 minutes and aims to gather responders’ views on:

  • Whether there should be a legal obligation for standard tier premises to be prepared for a terrorist attack;
  • Whether the new law will be successful at making people feel safer;
  • How easy or difficult it will it be to comply with the proposed new requirements;
  • Whether there could be any unintended consequences of the new law;
  • Whether the new law will reduce or increase the burden (i.e. financial, time, or effort) on those responsible for standard tier premises; and
  • Who should bear the costs of implementing and maintaining compliance with the new requirements (e.g. those responsible for the premises or customers)?
Manchester Arena

© Copyright Paul Gillett

The Government is particularly keen to hear the views of those in the charitable and not-for-profit sector, but campaigner Figen Murray (mother of Martyn Hett, who was tragically killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena terrorist attack) has urged “everyone with an interest” to respond.

The consultation also sets out three “revised standard tier requirements” made since the publication of the Bill. It is proposed that standard tier premises will be required to:

  1. Notify the Regulator (whose identity is still to be confirmed) that they are responsible for premises falling within the scope of the Bill;
  2. Have in place procedural measures that could be expected to reduce, so far as reasonably practicable, the risk of physical harm to individuals at the premises in the event of an attack; and
  3. No longer complete a specified form (i.e. the ‘Standard Terrorism Evaluation’) or ensure that workers at the premises undertake specific training. Instead, workers will need to be sufficiently instructed or trained to carry out the premises’ counter-terrorism procedural measures effectively.

Striking a balance for smaller premises

Andrew Sanderson, Partner at Fieldfisher

The Government’s revised approach, as outlined in its consultation, aims to minimise the financial burdens associated with implementation of the Bill for smaller businesses and premises. One strategy is through the introduction of a “reasonably practicable” approach, familiar to many in health and safety law. This approach is expected to better accommodate the diverse range of businesses and premises that will fall within the scope of the standard tier, allowing them to assess and adopt counter-terrorism measures suited to their individual circumstances.

For standard tier premises, the Government has estimated that costs are likely to range between £160 and £525 per year for each site, with some premises potentially facing reduced costs resulting from the additional “reasonably practicable” test. The greatest cost incurred is expected to be the working hours taken up by staff completing counter-terrorism planning and training.

The path forward

The Government has yet to announce whether a similar consultation will be launched for enhanced tier premises or events. However, as campaigners are hopeful that the revised Bill will be tabled before the anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing on 22 May 2024, this may mean that further consultation would not be possible within the remaining timeframe.

The consultation process emphasises the vital role of inclusive policymaking in the UK, where a range of diverse voices can contribute to informed decision-making.

Potential stakeholders of the new law are in a unique position to shape its future and help to strike a delicate balance between robust and effective counter-terrorism security and a pragmatic approach, which is not unduly burdensome to organisations. SHP readers who believe that they may fall within the Bill’s new standard tier scope are therefore encouraged to respond to the consultation before it closes on Monday 18 March 2024.

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