Duty to Protect- Public Consultation

By Vijay Bange

Last week marked 20 years of the horrific terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. 2017 saw the atrocious attacks at the Manchester Arena, and subsequently Fishmongers’ Hall in London, and sadly there were others. Global events may create yet further security uncertainty and risks from potential terror attacks.

In February this year James Brokenshire, the Security Minister, reiterated the government’s commitment to improving public security, and to action the findings and lessons learned from the ensuing inquiries. The Home Office has commenced a public consultation on the use of a ‘Protect Duty’. In short this will require businesses, public bodies and security firms to consider risks of a terrorist attack and to ensure proportionate and reasonable measures are taken to protect the public.

Whilst its early in the process there will probably be certified training applicable to a range of businesses where there are front line personnel interacting with the public. Public bodies could conceivably require that organisations have in place policies / protocols and training as part of tendering requirements. Whilst it is unclear what types of businesses will be subject to this proposed duty, it may encompass a whole plethora of sectors .

Those operating construction sites may well need to follow the consultation as it develops and start thinking about how a Protect Duty may affect their working practices and procedures and protocols, if they are not already thinking about whether they have in place reasonable and proportionate measures to deal with such risks. The consultation is at an early stage and, therefore, the shape and scope of the duty may well change.

We have long standing rigorous health and safety legislation, and regulations, in place that are generally applicable, and indeed industry specific, to cover off risks to members of the public (primarily in the workplace).

Where there are safety issues at play we have seen other statutory invention. The introduction of corporate manslaughter being an example. Furthermore, the development and existence of a duty to warn in certain instances, specifically if there is a health and safety risk, has reinforced the willingness of the courts to enforce an unwritten moral code of corporate responsibility to behave ethically. The Protect Duty in a similar vein may seek to ensure yet further obligations on corporate and public bodies that interact with the public in some way to take on board training and protocols to address potential risks that may arise from terror attacks on home soil.