Chair: Martin Gill

Paul Harvey – Chief Commercial Officer, Ward Security
Marshall Kent – Counter Terrorism & Security Consultant, Marshall Kent Consulting
Josie Nicastro – Commercial Underwriting Manager, Aviva

Key points

Paul Harvey notes that we are yet to see a draft of the requirements that will govern any Protect Duty that may be introduced. What is clear is that many organisations are not preparing, although this is not unusual, arguing that with health and safety legislation there was a journey from denial, to acceptance and then the embrace occurred. That said minds will be sharpened if the maximum penalty for failure to comply is a charge of corporate manslaughter. He notes that we are working from a low base: in the Manchester Arena where the bombing occurred there were more regulations governing the sale of sandwiches than security. It would also focus the commercial considerations which too often in security circles is governed by costs. The provision of standards will help, but the key is to ensure an accurate risk assessment – from qualified assessors – takes place which forms the basis of actions to be taken. On the positive side there are signs already of greater collaboration between the police and emergency services and security. Paul emphasises that although there has been a lot of focus on security companies and departments, in reality the security response involves the whole of an organisation and good security and terrorism prevention requires an engaged whole organisation approach. It will be testing, not least on the back of the upheavals (and costs) of the pandemic.

Josie Nicastro reminds us that a lot of organisations are already focussed on terrorism prevention and are doing a sterling job in protecting the public. They will have relevant insurance and often have a sophisticated security operation in place. The key though is to ensure all organisations do, and to ensure consistency in the ways risks are managed. In thinking about what the requirements to the Protect Duty might involve, the interest should be in the detail, it will be difficult, as Josie notes, where holding events in public space requires the engagement and support of a whole range of authorities. Holding them all to account will be a challenge. Moreover, there is a focus on having a proportionate response so it does not necessarily mean more money will need to be spent on compliance, much depends on the state of operations an organisation practices now and in any event organisations are already responsible, albeit some take this more seriously than others. What is more there will be a lot of guidance available.

Marshall Kent, a former police officer, underlines the importance of legislation in inducing action. We have learned that terrorism can occur anywhere, it used to be targeted on iconic places, not now, and that justifies a focus on all publicly accessible locations. He states that it is ‘shocking’ that there are not currently more requirements. He emphasises the importance of responses being proportionate, about the need to make people feel safe. In response to the issue of the likely costs, Marshall quotes a Rand study on the costs of not securing places adequately, but of course this is ultimately about ensuring people are protected from terror. He refers to the Protect Duty as a ‘once in a generation opportunity’. It needs to have ‘teeth’. Those charged with making decisions have to do that well, in preventing terrorism doing nothing is not to be encouraged. Alongside legislation there is value in incentivising people, introducing Kite marks, providing a quality assurance system, the key thing to take from the Protect Duty is the need to step-up and echoing an earlier point reminds us that there will be lots of guidance provided. The challenge is to guard against complacency.

The Protect Duty has the potential to change the way security is perceived. Much will depend on the detail of what is required, but it will also depend on the ability of the security sector to step up. It is a challenge that many security professionals in the UK welcome, and if successful could influence the way in which security develops in other countries too.

Martin Gill
20th January 2022

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