Figen Murray is the force behind Martyn’s Law, an act of legislation that is currently going through parliament. On the 22nd May 2017 Figen lost her son Martyn Hett to the terrorist bombing at the Manchester Arena, and since then she has tirelessly campaigned to get the law passed and in place at venues across the UK. The law will require venues of over 100 capacity to improve security against the threat of terrorism, train their staff with free online training provided by the government, and require a counter-terrorism plan to be in place.
This began in early 2019 in Figen’s kitchen as an online petition. Since then, she has been working with a team of co-campaigners and meeting government officials and ministers regularly to formulate how her vision would be put into practice and implemented as law. During this time, Figen also completed a Master’s Degree in counter-terrorism. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Salford University in 2022, and additionally made a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Risk Management (ISRM). She was awarded the Outstanding Contribution Award at the 2020 Counter Terror Awards, and is a member of the Senior Leadership team at TINYg.
She was also awarded an OBE in the 2022 New Year’s Honours List.
By also visiting schools, colleges and universities, Figen hopes that through educating young people around the dangers of radicalisation, she can help stop attacks like the Manchester Arena one from happening in the future. She has so far spoken to more than 26,000 young people across England. We asked Figen what did she think of the current announcement of the pending law in the recent King’s speech:
“I was mid-air when the King delivered his much-awaited speech. I was on my way to Germany to speak at a security conference. What followed were hundreds of messages of congratulations and “Well done’s” on every social media platform I use. But my heart was heavy, my mood rock bottom and it led me to go quiet on these platforms during my two days in Germany. I needed to lick my wounds and feel all the emotions of disappointment and dig deep to emerge out of the dark place I had fallen into. Thankfully, two days later I came out of it with more determination than ever.
“Whilst I should have been very elated at the mention of the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, also known as Martyn’s Law, it was blighted by a telephone conversation the day before the royal speech.
“The security minister, Tom Tugendhat MP spoke with me, and my fellow campaigners to let us know that there is still a process to go through which was clearly much more complex than we were originally led to believe. A discussion with the home office several months ago pointed to a mention in the King’s Speech leading to the legislation being debated in parliament shortly after and that in early spring the King would give his royal assent. Sadly, the process is more complex and far lengthier than anticipated. The Home Affairs Select Committee findings were skewed by unfounded concerns around the possible closure of village halls as the legislation was deemed too onerous or costly.
“Martyn’s Law is a proportionate law, and this seemed to have been overlooked by the committee when in addition a representative for small businesses was concerned about the financial burden of the legislation. There was talk of making the legislation applicable only for the Enhanced Tier (800+ people) which is a big cause for concern. Should this be the case it would endanger smaller venues and turn them into readily accessible softer targets. As campaigners we are very concerned about this and publicly opposed to it. The home office decided to do a further two-month public consultation for the standard tier. Although this is causing some delay, it may be a very positive step forward in terms of the industry now being clearer about what is suggested in the legislation. People will be able to respond to the consultation far swifter and more concisely.
“Whilst the legislation will enter parliament during November or December, there will be a second reading after this public consultation and various committees will have the opportunity to come up with suggestions and amendments. Royal assent may not happen until the end of summer. However, once signed off by the King, there will be a one-year implementation period to allow people to introduce all necessary measures to comply with the legislation. And of course, there is also the possibility looming that the government will simply run out of time to deal with Martyn’s Law and it may fall onto the Labour government to make it a reality. Just in case this happens we have already formed strong links with relevant shadow ministers.
“Martyn’s Law intends to make it mandatory for venues and publicly accessible locations to keep staff and customers safe. The terrorism landscape has changed dramatically since the days of the Troubles, when the IRA announced any planned attacks with phone calls or some indication that something bad was about to happen.
“In 2014 terrorism took a sinister turn with a Daesh spokesman circulating a video online and it went viral in minutes. He encouraged people to no longer go to training camps abroad or wait for instructions. He said – ..kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
“This put self-initiated terrorism firmly on the UK map and massively impacted the work of MI5 and the counterterrorism police. Individuals started to radicalise online, hired vehicles, bought knives, made IED’s with step-by-step instructions found on the dark web, and started to randomly attack innocent citizens.
“There have been nine deadly attacks and 39 very late stage disrupted plots since 2017. Currently, there are 800 live investigations and over 2,500 subjects of interest who are a cause for concern. Additionally, a further 30,000 people are at the margins of being subjects of interest. Whilst a big proportion of these people represent an Islamist ideology, far right extremism is on the rise. Sadly, some of these people infiltrate peaceful protests to disrupt.
“The current crisis in the Middle East provides many opportunities for the Far Right to seek out peaceful marches and inflame already precarious emotions. Terrorists could literally strike anytime, anyplace, anywhere. The notion of “It will not happen here” is a dangerous one. Martyn’s Law will help save lives by significantly reducing opportunities for terrorists to attack venues. It will mandate that venues have proportionate security measures in place. Seeing security staff or security equipment at large venues can act as a deterrent, having a website stating that the venue operates a state-of-the-art CCTV system and having both overt and covert security may again be a good deterrent.
“Martyn’s Law has been criticised, and there is concern that small businesses and/or venues are at risk of closure because the cost and requirements are too onerous. The legislation is proportionate, and a lot of measures that are asked for are already falling under the scope of health and safety or fire safety.
“An example of proportionate measures is asking staff to do their ACT e-learning course, a total of 45 minutes free of charge training.
“Employers would need to pay one hour’s staff wage. But in many of the standard tier venues this may be all that is required alongside staff knowing where to evacuate or invacuate in case of an attack. It is up to the government now to get the public consultation underway as soon as possible as the clock is ticking.
“There will no doubt be a lively parliamentary debate that follows the consultation and amendments put forward by various committees. The entire industry is holding its breath and eagerly awaits the outcome of Martyn’s Law. Other nations are also keen to see the outcome of the legislation as it is unique. The global interest this has resulted in is a massive opportunity for the UK government to lead the way in becoming a key player when it comes to the safety and security of its citizens. As Martyn’s mum, my hope is that the government will simply do the right thing to ensure the safety of citizens all over the UK.”
Find out more – figenmurray.co.uk
Find out more about the draft legislation HERE
Martyn’s Law is reviewed on Protect UK – The Counter Terrorism Alliance