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Martyn’s Law and the current alcohol licensing regime

The new law will have consequences for all premises and personal licence holders operating venues with a capacity of over 100 people.

Following the Manchester Arena attack in 2017, there have been increased calls to introduce new measures which will require venue owners to consider the threats posed by terrorism and implement appropriate measures to mitigate risk. The UK Government is close to publishing a draft bill, named “Martyn’s Law” after one of the victims of the attack, Martyn Hett, which is likely to be considered by Parliament this spring.


The bill applies to all licensed premises with a capacity of over 100 people, which will qualify as standard tier. Standard tier premises will be required to demonstrate first aid provision and deterrent measures. Larger premises, with a capacity in excess of 800, will qualify for enhanced tier. The obligation on enhanced tier operators will be much greater and will include a requirement to produce a risk assessment and security plan. The law aims to require premises to draw up plans to increase public safety and implement measure to mitigate against acts of terrorism.

The Home Office has confirmed that the duty will apply to most entertainment and leisure venues, public buildings, sports grounds and local and central government buildings.

It will apply to temporary events, places of worship and educational institutions (such as university campuses). The duty will apply irrespective of the identity of the duty holder, meaning it will apply equally to volunteers and charitable organisations as it will to corporates and public sector organisations.

Licensing implications

The new law will have consequences for all premises and personal licence holders operating venues with a capacity of over 100 people.

Whilst it is yet unclear who will have responsibility for enforcement of the new legislation, it does appear that there is significant crossover with the existing liquor licensing regime and the duties and powers held by the local licensing authorities seem well placed to incorporate new measures into their existing powers to grant, review and ultimately revoke licences for venues which are not being run correctly. It remains to be seen whether the Government will increase the scope of the existing Licensing Act 2003 or introduce a new public body to train and ultimately enforce compliance.

Current licensing conditions

At present all applications for new alcohol premises licences need to be approved by the police, fire authority, local environmental health and public health bodies before they are formally granted by the local licensing committee. These authorities can recommend conditions to be attached to the licences in order that the operators comply with the overriding licensing requirements:

  • Preventing crime and disorder.
  • Securing public safety.
  • Preventing public nuisance.
  • Protecting and improving public health; and.
  • Protecting children from harm

Conditions complying with Martyn’s Law and terrorism threats sit squarely within at least two of the existing overriding conditions currently in place. Conditions ensuring compliance with Martyn’s Law could also be recommended by one or more of the public authorities, compliance with which is necessary before a licence is issued.

Proposed conditions could include the requirement that a qualified first aider is on duty during busy or peak times and that a risk assessment is carried out and kept in an accessible place on the premises for inspection by staff and enforcement officers. An incident log could also be required to be kept and maintained. These conditions would be particularly important for venues located in or near to large capacity venues such as sports stadia or live music or sporting venues.

At present a mandatory condition for many licensed premises is the requirement for SIA approved door staff to be deployed at busy times. This condition could be adapted to include the requirement that all security staff have appropriate critical incident training in the event of a terrorism event. The details of that training will need to be scoped out once the law comes into force.

Existing premises licences

Existing premises licences have no end date and run until they are either rescinded by the local authority or voluntarily handed back by the licence holder. Whilst all new licences applied for after the introduction of Martyn’s Law will no doubt need to include provision for this new act, existing licence holders will not need to do so and unless the licence is reviewed by the local authority, there will be no requirement to do so until the licence is rescinded. Therefore, an issue that the Government will need to consider is whether it will be appropriate or feasible to add new conditions to the thousands of existing premises licences currently in operation and whether this will be a blanket requirement or a requirement only for high-risk areas (e.g., city centres).

Enforcement and compliance

The current licensing regime does potentially have appropriate powers for enforcement in the event of non-compliance by a premises owner. At present, any public authority such as police, fire services, and local environmental health as well as members of the public can apply to the local authority to review a premises licence deemed not to be complying with the licensing objectives.

The local authority must hold a public hearing to review the licence. The authority has the power to impose additional conditions on a premises licence, order the removal of the designated premises supervisor and ultimately close the premises in the most serious of cases. It would seem appropriate that any premises failing to implement the requirements of Martyn’s Law could be dealt with under this regime adequately with the ultimate sanction of licence removal being sufficient to motivate premises to implement appropriate training and measures.

Martyn’s Law has cross-party and public support. The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has confirmed that draft legislation will be introduced as soon as Parliament will allow.

Whilst the Government has indicated that it intends to guide and educate operators, the public body responsible for the implementation of Martyn’s Law will be given wide-ranging and punitive enforcement powers in the event that premises licence operators fail or refuse to act. It is, therefore, important that venue owners understand the obligations and duties this legislation will introduce and the consequences for non-compliance. The consequences for venues found in breach of Martyn’s Law can be severe. It will therefore be important for proprietors to take expert legal advice to protect themselves and their businesses from criminal sanction and/or the loss of their business.

Weightmans has extensive experience and expertise in the leisure and retail sectors. The team is regularly instructed by venue owners and operators to advise on and apply for licensed premised applications. The team represents parties subject to reviews of existing licences and appeals against the licensing committee’s decisions to revoke or rescind licences. Please view our dedicated web page detailing the services and products that we can offer.