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PM pledges to ramp up anti-terror protection at public venues

Boris Johnson said he wants to work with venues to try and protect people from lone radicalised killers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pays his respects, along with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan at a vigil to the two people killed in the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pays his respects, along with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan at a vigil to the two people killed in the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

The Tories want venues to prepare for terror incidents in the same way they would a fire.

Following last week’s murderous attack that killed two people in Fishermongers’ Hall next to London Bridge and three terror atrocities in 2017, Boris Johnson has committed to ramping up public security against terrorism if he is put back into Number 10 on December 12.

Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were both stabbed to death by 28-year-old convicted terrorist Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event on Friday.

There has been a growing frequency of attacks on citizens in recent years, with the rise of so-called Islamic State in parts of Syria and Iraq encouraging lone-wolf and coordinated group offensives on the streets of Britain and other Western countries.

In May 2017, 23 people were killed when Salman Abedi, a radicalised Muslim, set off a homemade bomb as people were leaving an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.

Only two weeks later, three terrorists murdered eight after mowing people down in a van and then going on a stabbing spree through Borough Market in the London Bridge area.

It is no longer sufficient for public venues to prepare for accidental threats like fire. They need to reduce their vulnerability to people who seek to perpetrate violent acts too Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister – in a move backed by the families of terror victims – said public venues must look to “reduce their vulnerability” to terror attacks in the same way they would for a fire risk.

Mr Johnson said: “The nature of threats faced by British citizens has changed in the evolution of modern extremism.

“It is no longer sufficient for public venues to prepare for accidental threats like fire. They need to reduce their vulnerability to people who seek to perpetrate violent acts too.

“We must not let the terrorists alter our way of life. In our open and tolerant society, the freedom for citizens to enjoy markets, concerts, gigs and restaurants must continue as before.

“But there are steps we can and will take to make public spaces as secure as possible. Already we are increasing the budget for counter-terrorism policing, including an extra £160 million a year, and we are developing a new counter-extremism strategy to reflect the changing face of extremism.”

The rise of “low-sophistication” attacks, often carried out by lone culprits – such as the Fishermongers’ Hall attack, that took two young lives, and the strike on Westminster Bridge and Parliament in March 2017 – is making it more difficult for police and intelligence agencies to scupper incidents before they take place, the Tory Party said.

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Tributes to Cambridge University graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, on London Bridge, who were both stabbed to death by 28-year-old convicted terrorist Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event they were supporting in London on Friday (Rick Findler/PA)

The party spokesman said a newly-elected Tory government would work with owners and operators of public venues during a consultation to develop the “best approach” to ensuring public venues were safe.

The option of bringing in legislation to force venue owners’ hands in making the safety changes would be under consideration, the Tories confirmed.

A newly-elected administration would also consult on a “survivors’ charter” to ensure fast access to mental health support and compensation.

Figen Murray, mother of Martyn Hett who was killed in the 2017 Manchester attack, has been campaigning to make it compulsory for every venue to assess the risk of an attack, in what has been dubbed “Martyn’s Law”.

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Martyn Hett, who was killed in the Manchester Arena bomb in 2017 (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

She said: “When Martyn died, I promised both myself and him that I would do everything in my power to stop other families going through what we were.

“Today is a real breakthrough in those efforts and I thank the Prime Minister for responding in the way he has.

“Martyn’s Law won’t stop terrorism – nothing can – but it will make it harder to commit. It’s the sort of common-sense law that most people would think already existed.”

Charlotte Dixon-Sutcliffe, whose partner David was killed in the Brussels metro bombing in 2016, said she welcomed the proposals.

The chair of Survivors Against Terror said: “We strongly welcome the commitment of the Prime Minister to support Martyn’s Law and the Survivor’s Charter.

“Combined these two policies will make our country safer and provide the sort of support to survivors that the British public would expect. We also welcome today’s commitment from the Labour Party to support the charter.”

PA

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