Manchester Arena Inquiry: Martyn's law - what is it and why is it so important?

  • ITV Grandad Reports correspondent Elaine Willcox spoke to Figen Murray after it was revealed bosses at SMG deliberately misled her when they spoke about who was responsible for the City Room on the night of the attack.

Figen Murray's son Martyn was one of the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena attack.

Since then she has channelled her grief into action - studying for a degree in counter-terrorism and campaigning for a law in her son's name.Currently venue owners have no obligation to act on free advice from specialist counter-terrorism officers or on how to reduce the risk of a terror attack.

Martyn's Law would change that - and also introduce stricter security measures.

Figen Murray with her son Martyn Hett

What is Martyn's Law?

Figen started a petition for tougher security measures after she went to a concert in Salford in December 2018. She'd taken a small bag, so it was easier for the bag search, and it wasn't even checked.

At the moment, private and public owners of venues currently have no obligation to act on advice from specialist counter-terrorism officers about threats of a terror attack and how to reduce the risk.

The government has launched an 18-week consultation to develop plans to make it a legal requirement for public places to improve security measures, building on Martyn's Law.

What would it mean?

Among the Protect Duty proposals are:

  • The introduction of free counter-terror training for event staff

  • Assessments of locations to see how vulnerable they are

  • The need for venues and local authorities to have clear counter-terror action plans

  • More thorough security checks, including bag searches

Figen Murray giving evidence at the inquiry.

Figen told the public inquiry into the bombing in November 2020 that "the stakes are too high" for further delay.

"We just cannot wait for Covid-19 to end", she said, adding that an "additional worry" was the uncertainty about how many people will have been radicalised online during lockdown.

Why is it so important?

A damning report into security failings on the night of the Manchester Arena attack has found that "changes need to be made without delay” to prevent future atrocities.

Sir John Saunders, the Chair of the Inquiry, said the security arrangements at the Arena failed to prevent or minimise the terrorist attack.

He accepted that some changes have been made at the venue, which provide greater protection for members of the public, but concluded that more needs to be done, as "there remains a risk of further attacks".

Sir John has praised Figen for her efforts to improve safety.

He said: "We think it is wonderful that you are doing so much to make something constructive come out of this tragedy by campaigning to introduce Martyn's Law to save others from suffering in the way you and other families have."

Support for Martyn's Law

Clubs and venues in Manchester have been asked to adopt new anti-terror measures following Figen Murray's campaign.

Manchester City Council had indicated in January 2020 that it would bring in the changes, the first city to do so, by adopting new licensing rules.

But that was delayed due to Covid. The council's current proposals, including conditions for venues and counter terrorism training, will be presented to the council's licensing committee in July.

Great Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: "I am encouraged that the Chair has called for an overhaul of the law in relation to security at venues and this is an endorsement of the outstanding campaigning work of Figen Murray, mother of Martyn Hett.

"The Government will have our full support in legislating for a Protect Duty, which here in Greater Manchester will always be known as Martyn's Law and which will always remind us of each and every one of the 22 individual lives that were lost on that night."

The Government has also pledged to take action in response to terrorism.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "I am extremely grateful to Figen Murray and her tireless campaigning for ‘Martyn’s Law’, following the devastating loss of her son in the attack, ensuring that venues and public spaces put the safety and security of the public first.

"We will now carefully consider the Chair’s conclusions and recommendations in this report, including his reflections on the Protect Duty which will help shape our consultation response, and respond fully in due course."

The 22 victims of the Manchester Arena attack.

Granada Reports correspondent Elaine Willcox has been following Figen's story.

Figen Murray is a remarkable woman. Despite her own often crippling grief she has worked tirelessly to try to stop other families losing a loved one.

She started a campaign in her son's name, dubbed Martyn's Law to step up security in public places.

While studying a degree in counter terrorism, the mum of five goes into schools and colleges to talk to young people to warn against the dangers of radicalisation.

The pandemic, with more of us experiencing isolation, has only exacerbated her fears over the risk of extremism.

"We've worked so hard and so many people have contributed to this and worked alongside me.

"I just hope this gives some form of meaning to Martyn and the other people's deaths so I know that they haven't died for nothing."

"Hopefully, something positive will come out of this in the end and prevent deaths in the future."

When I asked her if she thought Martyn would be proud of her campaign, she told me he would probably find it highly amusing that she is so active on social media.

Martyn lived much of his life on social media, and regularly updated his followers.

Every night at 10:31pm, Figen tells us she lies awake due to the guilt she feels at having been asleep at the exact time her son was killed.

She said, "I cannot reconcile" that I was asleep as "my son lay dead on the floor".

"I am ashamed about that," and since then she's done everything in her power to prevent another attack.