On 28 February 2021, the Home Office issued the Protect Duty Consultation which has the objective of making the public safer at publicly accessible locations. In spite of the fact that criminal law is a devolved responsibility, the proposals are intended to apply to the whole of the UK, not just to England & Wales. This consultation is open to the public and is targeted at a number of groups who own or operate at publicly accessible locations or others that a ‘Protect Duty’ would potentially affect. A publicly accessible location is defined as any place to which the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission. The non-exhaustive list includes places of worship.
The security of places of worship has been addressed in a number of our posts, but to date, government initiatives have addressed the provision of security funding for places where specific concerns have been expressed. The on-going consultation is seeking views on the adoption of a broader approach, there are significant concerns about the proposals in the Faith Sector in London, in the churches and in the Church of England. These concerns have been expressed in a blog post by Fr Luke Miller, Archdeacon of London, Unintended Consequences of the Protect Duty, by Churches together in England, Protect duty consultation – share your church’s view, the Evangelical Alliance, What the proposed Protect Duty might mean for churches, and others.
Making Music is running a free, discussion-focussed event Protect Duty consultation: find out more and bring your views on Friday, 25 June 2021 – 10:00am to 11:15am.
Fr Miller’s blog explains “the proposals follow a campaigning Figen Murray, whose son Martyn was tragically killed in the Manchester Arena attack, to introduce “Martyn’s Law” which aims to legislate for a duty on those who own or manage publicly accessible places to take actions to reduce the threat of terrorism. Whilst this calls for “simple common sense security”, the Consultation explores the introduction of legislation which has the potential for “very significant unintended consequences”.
The CTE post states:
“This will affect most church buildings, and the new duties, while being proportionate, will have legal sanctions for non-compliance. It will place extra requirements upon those who serve as, for instance, members of PCCs, Baptist diaconates, church councils and all who are, in charity law, seen as ‘managing trustees.’ It will also require clergy/local church leaders to be acquainted with these duties, as they should with safeguarding and health and safety regulations.
The Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller, who chairs the faith-sector panel of the London Resilience Forum, has warned that this government legislation on public security connected with terrorism could have unintended consequences for churches. In a recent blog he said “if just one church which would otherwise have been open for individual prayer or visiting decides to close as a result of this, the terrorists will have had a major success.”
The on-line Consultation (“the Survey”) “is likely to take around 30 minutes to complete, although it is not necessary to answers all the questions. Nevertheless responders should still continue to the end and press the final submit button for their partial response to be formally considered. It closes at 11:45pm on 2 July 2021.
Update, 29 July at 17:58
On 27 July 2021, Kevin Foster, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Home Office, answered a Written Question about the impact on places of worship of the requirements of the Protect Duty, and said: “The Government is mindful places of worship differ significantly in the nature of their function and operation from other locations potentially within the scope of the Protect Duty proposals…The Government will be carefully considering the issues raised within the consultation and our engagement events, including those discussed with representatives of different faith communities, before considering next steps.”