Protected to death

Do you have anything to do with an agricultural show? Run a gymkhana? Have any connection with a village hall, or a scout or guide troop?

The Home Office has issued a Protect Duty Consultation. ‘Making the public safer at publicly accessible locations.’ It could well interest you.

 In case you wondered what a publicly accessible location was the document states, “Publicly accessible locations include a wide variety of everyday locations such as: sports stadiums; festivals and music venues; hotels; pubs; clubs; bars and casinos; high streets; retail stores; shopping centres and markets; schools and universities; medical centres and hospitals; places of worship; Government offices; job centres; transport hubs; parks; beaches; public squares and other open spaces. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does demonstrate the diverse nature of publicly accessible locations.

The foreword, from the security minister, James Brokenshire, states, “I want to thank Figen Murray, whose son Martyn was killed in the Manchester Arena attack, for the significant contribution she has made through her tireless campaign to introduce ‘Martyn’s Law’. It is an old saying that ‘hard cases make bad law’ and this is a classic example of the sort of massive overreaction that the civil service is capable of at its worst.

So what do we have to do? Well the consultation document comments.

“However, there are many reasonable and appropriate measures which can be – and often already are – undertaken by organisations who operate at such locations. These include:

• Having security plans and procedures to react and respond to different threats which are understood by all staff and regularly exercised;

• Having simple and freely available training and awareness courses in place as part of new staff and refresher training programmes; and

• Employing simple security measures (such as door locks, roller shutters) for crime prevention and anti-social behaviour, which may also be used in response to other security threats.

So who is going to be caught up in this? The consultation is clear.

“1. Proposal: The Duty should apply to owners and/or operators of publicly accessible venues with a capacity of 100 persons or more.”

So seen from a rural standpoint, this includes churches, (a high proportion of rural parish churches will hold 100 for a wedding or a funeral) village halls, community halls, agricultural shows, ploughing competitions, gymkhanas and similar. (Even if 100 never turn up, the fact that there’s capacity for a hundred is all that matters.)

2. Proposal: The Duty should apply to large organisations (employing 250 staff or more) that operate at publicly accessible locations.
So this will automatically pull in those who use smaller buildings. Given that ‘staff’ may include volunteers, this nicely brings in the Scout and Guide Associations, the Mother’s Union, and a whole host of other subversive organisations.

“3. Proposal: A Protect Duty should be used to improve security considerations and outcomes at public spaces.”

This one starts to spread the net wider. So with

4. Other aspects of a Protect Duty it specifically states, “Companies and other organisations responsible for holding, selling or hiring products that could be used by terrorists as a weapon in an attack at a publicly accessible location to adhere to security guidance.”
Given that terrorists have used kitchen knives, cars, purchased or hired, what sort of hoops are they now going to expect us to go through when we sell a second hand car?

Then for a church warden, vicar, the agricultural show or village hall committee contemplating these rules there is guidance.

“For organisations at the lower end of criteria thresholds, this would entail simple low – or no – cost preparedness measures such as ensuring that:

• Staff are trained and aware of the nature of threats, likely attack methodologies and how to respond;

• Staff are trained to identify the signs of hostile reconnaissance and take appropriate action; and

• There are plans in place for an organisation’s response to different attack types, which are regularly trained and exercised.”

So our church (which doesn’t have ‘staff’ but is run by volunteers) has to train its volunteers and also run regular exercises? Note that it does promise on-line training. Given most of our ‘staff’ don’t have email, and those who do have rubbish rural broadband, between you and me, they’re not selling it to me.

There is a table which details the sorts of things various sized organisations ought to be doing. But the document does include weasel words about being ‘reasonably practical’.
It even says, “The term ‘reasonably practicable’ is already a well-established and understood concept for organisations through health and safety legislation and fire safety regulations.”
Which is true, I went to the HSE website and looked up what it meant.

The definition as set out by the Court of Appeal (in its judgment in Edwards v. National Coal Board, [1949] 1 All ER 743) is: “‘Reasonably practicable’ is a narrower term than ‘physically possible’ … a computation must be made by the owner in which the quantum of risk is placed on one scale and the sacrifice involved in the measures necessary for averting the risk (whether in money, time or trouble) is placed in the other, and that, if it be shown that there is a gross disproportion between them – the risk being insignificant in relation to the sacrifice – the defendants discharge the onus on them.”

So I’m sure that has set your minds at rest. Actually to be fair to the HSE they do elucidate. “Extreme examples might be:

To spend £1m to prevent five staff suffering bruised knees is obviously grossly disproportionate; but

To spend £1m to prevent a major explosion capable of killing 150 people is obviously proportionate.”

So if our church normally has a congregation of 10, then it’s proportionate to spend one 15th of £1m to prevent a terrorist attack capable of killing ten people? This is £66,666. Given that could be ten times our annual income, my recommendation, put to the PCC, is that we issue churchwardens with H&K MP5 submachineguns. (In 9mm, so they do less damage to fixtures and fittings.) Given that our rural churches tend to be in isolated locations where the police take forever to arrive, then any terrorists will have to be dealt with by the churchwardens (or perhaps the incumbent?)
Perhaps for funerals, where the vast majority of the people attending will not be known to our ‘staff’, the Churchwardens could cover the crowd with their firearms which the incumbent frisks the mourners down before allowing them into the church?


Me? I just write stuff, don’t confuse me with somebody who has a clue about what is going on. Ask an expert.

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This is in the same league as Herrick, absorbing you into a different world, with its trials and tribulations making a background for the occasional moment of hilarity or joy. Hats off to Jim and his ilk, putting food on our tables despite our unwillingness to pay a decent price for it. I am frequently outraged that I live in a society which is prepared to pay more for bottled water than milk, and drowns the country in plastic in the process.

Jim manages to get this across without ranting and then uses his wry sense of humour to leave you howling with laughter at a series of events that a mere townie could never have imagined. Thanks for letting me into your world Jim – I am now committed to changing my behaviour and paying the extra for local, seasonal produce.”

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22 thoughts on “Protected to death

  1. xantilor May 18, 2021 at 5:17 am Reply

    Did it mention profiling when looking out for likely terrorists? Thought not.

    • jwebster2 May 18, 2021 at 5:31 am Reply

      To be fair to the document it isn’t at that level of detail. It does say smaller organisations should “Engage with available awareness training (e.g. ACT e-learning)
      to build their capability for both the active security and response elements”
      In theory the e-learning could cover profiling (but I haven’t a clue whether it does or not and like you have my doubts.

      Similarly with Risk Assessment.
      “• Undertake a recorded risk assessment based upon information about terrorist attacks available through freely accessible government websites (CPNI and NaCTSO).
      • Consideration of a limited number of risks – e.g. marauding weapon attack, and an improvised explosive device.”

      So I think you’d ask whether the risk assessment included profiling. Is the frail elderly lady coming into the coffee morning with her shopping bag to be treated the same way as the heavily bearded man with a rucksack?

  2. Doug Jacquier May 18, 2021 at 5:51 am Reply

    Hmmm. It would seem to me that the owners of church halls, guide huts, etc would be ensconced in substantial quarters (if not Palaces) in London with paid staff capable of making thousands of such assessments in no time at all. Besides, if volunteers are now ‘staff’, presumably they must be eligible for all the other benefits accruable to paid staff, including workers compensation if they are injured or deaded in a terrorist attack. If not, a Mothers Union attack on Whitehall is likely to put any terrorist organisation in the shade. 😉

  3. Doug May 18, 2021 at 6:32 am Reply

    I take issue with your comments about Civil Servants. This is pure politics, in fact the Politicians Fallacy, just like making people take off their belts in airports. It doesn’t make anyone safer, but it is being seen to do something.

    Somewhere an adviser has read a semi-incoherent green-ink letter and thought it would make one of the Home Office Ministers look proactive and tough. Civil Servants, knowing the implications, face-palmed, but had to come up with something semi-workable, while hoping the Minister would forget it and move on to the next stunt. But the Minister sees Telegraph headlines and has no intention of missing out.

    Classic Home Office. Vindictive, stupid and with no thought to the real world impacts, but hey, it keeps us all in a heightened state of fear, and generates column inches, so that’s the main thing.

    • jwebster2 May 18, 2021 at 6:41 am Reply


      And everybody in the system is risk adverse so they’ll all demand the highest standards of compliance, because what do they have to lose?
      Except at the bottom where the muppets running the world just look at another pile of crap descending from above, shrug and hopefully ignore it
      Except where the muppets work for a company and have their own superiors with backs to cover 😦

  4. rootsandroutes2012 May 18, 2021 at 9:54 am Reply

    Never joke about incumbents with firearms until you know the situation in Trumpland very well – Biden hasn’t brought sanity back quite yet…

    • jwebster2 May 18, 2021 at 10:05 am Reply

      The problem we have here is the utter stupidity of the system. A rural parish does all the stuff recommended, is on the ball, detects the terrorist, contacts the police and it takes how long to get an armed response unit to them? An hour, two hours? I’ve come to the conclusion that with government making their suggestions look utterly fatuous in public is the only way to go forward 😦

  5. Stevie Turner May 18, 2021 at 11:56 am Reply

    Maybe there will be less events and mass gatherings in the future if there’s too much red tape.

    • rootsandroutes2012 May 18, 2021 at 12:15 pm Reply

      The problem is that – before the pandemic – groups of 100 people would have included our weekly village coffee morning (and it really ISN’T a big village). The capacity of the village hall in which we meet is obviously some way above that.

      • jwebster2 May 18, 2021 at 12:29 pm

        And that’s the problem. Who in their right mind is going to volunteer for a village hall committee when you’re responsible for all the anti-terrorism stuff?

      • rootsandroutes2012 May 18, 2021 at 12:40 pm

        Very few – if they are responsible. I think in our case the responsibility will rest with the trustees. So, try getting new trustees, or even holding onto the ones you’ve got. There aren’t many, and it could become a very exposed place to be.

      • jwebster2 May 18, 2021 at 12:57 pm

        It’s the same with School Governors, apparently there is a potential surplus in London, but in the rest of the country, the situation was getting dire

        I saw something for this year, Exeter diocese, which said that the numbers of governors has fallen even more sharply because so many cannot cope with just zoom meetings

        Load responsibility onto volunteers and they just fade away

  6. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt May 18, 2021 at 4:43 pm Reply

    If all laws and regulations and guidelines were enforced, the world would come to a complete stop within about 13 seconds.

  7. M T McGuire May 18, 2021 at 7:05 pm Reply

    Oh blimey. This reminds me of doing an eel tardily in Ely a while back. We had to use a kitchen with a hygiene rating to prepare so we all had to go round to the kitchen of one of the ladies who had one of those to prepare the eel and the creamed horseradish. Then there was the hands walnut and glove wild and ask sorts. It was a bit mad to be honest.

    • M T McGuire May 18, 2021 at 7:05 pm Reply

      Tasting an eel tasting. Stupid phone.

      • jwebster2 May 18, 2021 at 7:11 pm


        But yes, madness reigns

  8. Protected to death – Like world June 21, 2021 at 4:23 am Reply

    […] Protected to death […]

  9. Fumiko Pesante June 21, 2021 at 11:41 am Reply

    Nice blog post.😃 😎 2021-06-21 07h 40min

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