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Manchester Arena victim’s mother begins walk to Downing Street to demand new law

Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett (James Speakman/PA)
Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett (James Speakman/PA)

The mother of Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett will begin a 200-mile walk from the venue to Downing Street on Tuesday to demand the introduction of stronger protections against terrorism in public places.

Martyn’s Law, named in tribute to the 29-year-old who was one of 22 people killed at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017, would require venues and local authorities in the UK to have training requirements and preventative plans against terror attacks.

Figen Murray, Mr Hett’s mother, has long campaigned for the introduction of the law, which has yet to get beyond draft stage.

Manchester Arena Inquiry
The 22 victims of the terror attack during the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena (GMP/PA)

From Tuesday, she will be joined by family and friends, politicians, security industry experts, and members of the public over 16 days as she walks from the spot where her son was killed to Downing Street. She will arrive on May 22, the seventh anniversary of his death.

Ms Murray said her “life changed overnight” when her son was killed in the attack.

“Martyn’s death could have been avoided if there were basic security measures in place that night and that is why I have been tirelessly campaigning to ensure no parent experiences the pain and loss that I endure daily,” she said.

On Tuesday morning, Ms Murray will be joined by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and former counter-terrorism police chief Nick Aldworth, as well as Mr Hett’s friends Russell Hayward and Mikey Keating at the AO Arena in central Manchester.

Martyn’s Law
Martyn Hett (GMP/PA)

She will then begin the 186-mile walk to Downing Street. Over the 16 days, she will visit memorials to victims of terror attacks to pay her respects, including the Glade of Light in Manchester and the 7/7 Memorial in London.

“I am walking from the spot where my son died to 10 Downing Street to remind the Prime Minister of his commitment to introduce legislation that will improve security and protections at public venues,” Ms Murray said.

“The campaign for Martyn’s Law has already been a long journey, I hope this walk is the final leg. All I am asking is for the PM to keep his promise.”

Ms Murray has written to Rishi Sunak and asked him to meet her when she arrives at Downing Street and to name a date when the Government’s draft law will come to the House of Commons.

Since her son’s death, she has obtained a masters degree in counter-terrorism and received an OBE.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Figen Murray with her OBE medal (Victoria Jones/PA)

Her campaigning has been supported by experts and activists including the co-founder of Survivors Against Terror, Brendan Cox, who was married to murdered MP Jo Cox.

“Government’s first duty is keeping us safe,” he said.

“The fact that the Government knows that there are dangerous terror loopholes and has promised to fill them, yet hasn’t been able to find parliamentary time for its own bill is simply not good enough.”

Martyn’s Law was a commitment in the Conservative Manifesto in 2019 and was followed by public consultations.

A Home Affairs Select Committee in July 2023 criticised a draft of the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill which it said would put small businesses and organisations at risk of closure and fail to “make a significant impact” on preventing attacks.

MPs found the draft Bill, which has different standards based on venue capacity, would require a local village hall to have certain safety precautions, while an outdoor market in a city centre would not.

They said it was a “concern” that attacks which had occurred in some parts of the UK, such as in Scotland, would not fall into the draft Bill’s scope.

But Ms Murray claimed the committee reached a “dangerous and misguided” conclusion after scrutinising the draft legislation.

“Martyn’s Law will make us all safer without changing our way of life,” she said.

“It is not meant to restrict us but empower us by making the general public more resilient to such attacks.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “As set out in the King’s Speech, we are committed to bringing in Martyn’s Law – legislation that will better protect the public from terror attacks, and we are grateful to Figen Murray for her tireless support of this issue.

“It is important that our new law stands the test of time and is a fitting tribute to those who have campaigned for it. That is why we have consulted on how we can protect the public without putting unnecessary burdens on smaller businesses.

“We are now in the final stages of drafting this legislation, and it will be brought in as soon as possible.”