START, alongside START’s UK-based exclusive commercial partner CHC Global and the Security Industry Association (SIA), welcomed UK Protect Duty campaigner Figen Murray OBE at START headquarters this summer. This event allowed attendees to hear from Murray as she discussed her research and advocacy work campaigning for improved terrorism resilience in public venues.
Murray’s activities in this field began following the May 2017 terrorist attack at Manchester Arena, which injured hundreds and killed 22 people, including her 29-year-old son Martyn Hett.
In honor of his life, Murray began working on what would become the "Protect Duty,” otherwise known as Martyn's Law. This legislation would require UK entertainment venues and other publicly accessible locations to improve security against the threat of terrorism, and develop urgently needed counterterrorism risk mitigation plans.
Murray, a therapist by training, explained how she became involved in the terrorism resilience field following her son’s death in a question and answer session with START Director William Braniff.
“In Ms. Murray’s thesis she focused heavily on the critical role that public opinion would play in the success or failure of the Protect Duty, no matter how good the language of the legislation might be,” Braniff said. “She explained to us that her training as a therapist helped her identify the importance of human factors in any solution – both buy-in from the general public and a sense of personal responsibility within the leadership ranks of the publicly accessible venues that this legislation will focus on.”
In addition to advocating for better risk assessment and risk mitigation through the Protect Duty, Murray also highlighted the importance of violence prevention work.
“Exactly one year after Martyn died, I remember coming downstairs and saying to my husband, ‘The anniversary is done now. I need to go to schools. I need to talk to young people,’” Murray said. “And the reason I decided that is because the terrorist who committed the arena attack was only 22 years old. That’s so young! I had kids that age! And I felt surely, he wasn’t born a terrorist. Something happened to turn him into a terrorist. No baby is born as a terrorist. So, I figured that I needed to speak to young people to warn them.”
Murray has spoken with over 20,000 children in schools across the UK about the dangers of online radicalization. That number would have been even higher had it not been for the pandemic.
“I always say to the children, terrorist recruiters did not use the pandemic to bake banana bread, or do jigsaws, or take up a new hobby,” Murray said. “They rubbed their hands together in glee because they had a ready-made audience of hundreds of thousands of people.”
Murray teaches children about the messages that terrorist recruiters use and the platforms they operate on, including how they might talk about things that have nothing to do with terrorism, which is a grooming method recruiters use. In addition, she explains how children can recognize signs of radicalization in themselves or others, and how they can get help and support.
Murray has also worked to ensure collaboration between the UK government and the private sector on terrorism resilience efforts, particularly during the Protect Duty public consultation early last year.
“The security industry and related sectors in the UK have recognized that Figen has been able to energize the debate about securing publicly accessible locations,” CHC Global CEO Chris Holt MBE said. “Recognizing that the government was listening, the insurance sector and others have sought to engage in the process of consultation. There is work still to be done, but it is really encouraging to see multiple stakeholders aligned in their desire to improve societal resilience to terrorism.”
“A lot of industries and organizations are not waiting for the outcome of the Protect Duty,” Murray said. “They’re already implementing measures as best as they can to comply with the law when it comes in.”
Murray also spoke on the importance of victims’ services, and discussed the thoughtful ways in which authorities engaged with her and her family after her son’s death.
“In an attack you’re in a complete freefall. You’re completely lost and you’re completely broken – not destroyed but broken,” Murray said. “Any support families can get is absolutely vital.”
Those interested in learning more about the Protect Duty, or who would like to be put on the mailing list to receive a recording of this event, can email CHC Global at firstname.lastname@example.org.