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The Manchester Arena Inquiry has now concluded. The closure notice from the Inquiry Chairman is available here.

Volume 1: Security for the Arena
Volume 1: Security for the Arena (large format)

The voluntary nature of the CTSA scheme

In 2017 there was no statutory duty which referred specifically to the requirement to assess the risk of terrorism or put in place measures to mitigate that risk. That remains the case today, although the government is currently consulting on the introduction of a statutory Protect Duty. The network of CTSAs offer their advice to venue owners and operators. It is a voluntary system and there is no mechanism to compel engagement, nor to enforce the implementation of a CTSA’s recommendations.

There is a large volume of guidance available through the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and NaCTSO outlining the terrorism threat and possible mitigating measures which can be taken. I formed the clear view that the quality of this guidance was adequate in May 2017 and it has continued to be improved and updated since. There was some criticism that before May 2017 there was insufficient focus on grey spaces or the risk of attack at egress.229 Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lucy D’Orsi of Counter Terrorism Policing accepted that the 2017 Attack marked a “watershed moment” which led to a greater emphasis on those issues. GMP’s Principal CTSA, Elizabeth Forster, agreed.230

The unanimous view of all those who expressed a view to this Inquiry, was that the voluntary nature of the CTSA system and the lack of any specific legal duty to identify and mitigate the risk of terrorism has posed problems. I agree.

Figen Murray told me of her efforts to campaign for a change in the law: to introduce freely available counter-terrorism training; a requirement for vulnerability assessments of venues and public spaces; and a duty to have a counter-terrorism action plan and to take measures to mitigate any risks identified.231

Shaun Hipgrave, Director of Protect and Prepare within OSCT, agreed that the difficulty with a voluntary scheme is that there is a range of take-up and enthusiasm from private concerns.232 He described the work that is currently being done by OSCT to change the legislative framework to impose a Protect Duty upon those who ought to be responsible for the safety of the public when they are in a publicly accessible location and to provide further information or training to help them fulfil that duty.233

DAC D’Orsi said, “I think there’s always a gap in a system that’s discretionary. The way forward is new legislation and I have always been an advocate of a [Protect] duty.”234

The Security Experts thought the voluntary nature of the CTSA scheme was inadequate to address the threat of terrorism. They support the introduction of a mandatory Protect Duty.235 They commented that some form of inspection and enforcement regime would be necessary to make the duty effective and that the number of CTSAs would need to be increased or others with suitable expertise who are accredited by reputable organisations used to advise venues.236

So far as SMG is concerned, it is clear that SMG did understand its responsibility for security in the City Room and did engage with their CTSA. It follows that the fact that the system was voluntary made no difference to what happened on 22nd May 2017. Nevertheless, the Attack at the Arena has given rise to a constructive debate about how the legislative framework can be improved. I make recommendations as to what the key elements of a Protect Duty should be in Part 8.

Before I address the particular issues around the CTSA system as it operated at the Arena, I make clear that it is my view that a voluntary system is inadequate to provide a proper level of protection to the public.