“Martyn’s law shouldn’t be punitive, it should be supportive”
Figen Murray OBE, who lost her son in the Manchester bombing and is the force behind Martyn’s Law named in honour of her son, gave an emotive and inspiring keynote address to the 2023 Secured by Design (SBD) ATLAS national training conference and exhibition.
Addressing over 200 Designing Out Crime Officers (DOCOs) and senior police officers from across the UK, Figen gave a heart wrenching account of the night her son Martyn Hett was killed alongside 21 others in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017, the devastating aftermath and her work seeking tangible changes that can help to ensure no other family has to go through what hers did.
Describing the moment her fight for change began following the tragedy, Figen recounted how she visited a local theatre to attend a music concert 18 months after the attack, realising to her horror that no security seemed to be in place.
“I got my small handbag ready as I made the assumption that security would be so good at the venue” she said “particularly at Manchester where the attack happened. However, my husband got the tickets out and we walked straight in. There were staff about but nobody looked at us and I was really, really shocked – I cried during the concert, it upset me that much”.
Figen spent the next few weeks racking her brains about what she could do, researched security at public venues and realised that no legislation existed to keep the public safe.
“Over Christmas I researched security – until that time I was a complete layperson, I didn’t know anything about terrorism or security. I came across the government’s counter-terrorism (CONTEST) document, the Protect part of it and realised that it was only a recommendation and to this day it remains so. I find that absolutely incredible” she said.
Launching a government petition which received over 23,000 signatures, and with the enormous help and support of Brendan Cox, founder of Survivors Against Terror, and Nick Aldworth, former Chief Superintendent for Metropolitan Police, Figen is in regular discussion with the government who are now working on the finer details of Martyn's Law, which is in the process of becoming legislation.
Martyn's Law will require spaces and places to which the public have access to engage with freely available counter-terrorism advice and training; conduct vulnerability assessments of their operating places and spaces; mitigate the risks created by the vulnerabilities; put in place a counter-terrorism plan; and a requirement for local authorities to plan for the threat of terrorism.
“We’ve been working very closely with the Home Office, they’ve been brilliant and continue to be brilliant” said Figen, who has completed a Master’s Degree in counter-terrorism to help her gain a sound knowledge base on what exactly was needed out of this legislation in order for it to work best.
“Martyn’s Law doesn’t advocate a one size fits all approach, it’s all about having a plan relevant to the threat. It will follow a tiered model linked to activity that takes place at a location and its capacity. The government will establish an inspection and enforcement regime to promote compliance and a positive cultural change, issuing credible and fair sanctions for serious breaches.
“What we’re proposing, it’s fairly simple, it’s not rocket science. Martyn’s law shouldn’t be punitive, it should be supporting and guiding the industry”.
Summing up, Figen said: “I could be somebody from 9/11, I could be somebody from the London attacks, I could be somebody from the New Zealand attacks, it doesn’t matter – terrorism is a global issue and families are impacted almost on a daily basis, so that’s why I tell my story.
“I want you to know how important your job is and how valuable I think that your jobs are. I’m so grateful that there are people like you who do the jobs that you do to keep people safe.
“Martyn’s Law isn’t going to stop terrorism. Nothing can do that. But I do hope that if the government legislate for Martyn’s Law then it will mean simple common sense security will make it much harder to inflict mass casualties and fewer people will have to suffer what I and the parents of the 21 other bereaved families of Manchester have had to endure.
“Until Martyn’s law is legislation I will continue my work”.
SBD Chief Executive Officer, Guy Ferguson said: “Figen’s speech was absolutely fantastic and so powerful. I know a lot of us were struggling as she gave the speech and it really spoke to us about what we do – that’s what we’re all about, that’s why we do the job that we do, that’s what inspires us going forward. It’s a very powerful and poignant reminder of why we do what we do.”
Figen was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Salford University in 2022, and additionally made a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Risk Management (ISRM). In recognition for her efforts within the security industry, Figen was awarded the Outstanding Contribution Award at the 2020 Counter Terror Awards. She is also a member of the Senior Leadership team at Counter Terrorism Information Network TINYg.