Politicians accused of ‘systematic neglect’ over laws to prevent terror attacks

Scores of terror attack survivors and victims’ families have called on politicians to commit to changing laws to keep people safe from future atrocities.

More than 120 people affected by terror attacks signed a letter demanding “clear commitments” from leaders of all political parties ahead of the election as they lamented “missed opportunities” to bring in long overdue reforms to better protect against threats, support network Survivors Against Terror (SAT) said.

The letter, published four years after the Reading terror attack, said: “Days ahead of the last election a terror attack struck at Fishmongers Hall.

“In the aftermath we were promised that Martyn’s Law (a law focused on improving security at public venues) would be enacted and a Survivor’s Charter (guaranteeing the rights of survivors of terror attacks) would be brought forward.

“In the almost five years since, neither of those promises have been kept – we are no safer and no better supported than we were five years ago.”

Signed by relatives who have lost loved ones and victims who were injured and survived in more than 20 different terror attacks, including Manchester Arena, Fishmongers Hall, London Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Reading and Tunisia, the letter added: “Public venues remain at heightened risk of attack, survivors languish on waiting lists for mental health support and seriously injured people are still waiting for compensation many years after life changing attacks made it impossible for them to work.

“That has to change this time.

“We urge all parties not only to recommit to Martyn’s Law and the Survivor’s Charter, but to be clear about the timelines for their implementation because draft legislation doesn’t save lives and consultations don’t change living conditions”.

Martyn’s Law
Figen Murray, mother of Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett, and her husband Stuart speaking to Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (left) about Martyn’s Law (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Last week Labour joined the Conservatives in promising to bring in Martyn’s Law to help protect venues against terror attacks amid a row over years of delays in introducing the legislation.

The new law would be named after Martyn Hett, the 29-year-old who was one of 22 people murdered in a suicide bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in May 2017, and would require UK venues and councils to have mandatory training and plans to prevent and protect against terror attacks.

Martyn’s mother, Figen Murray, has been campaigning for the Government to bring in the law for years and walked 200 miles from Manchester to Downing Street in May.

General Election campaign 2024
Figen Murray, mother of Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett, arriving in Downing Street, London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

But she said she felt “let down” and “misled” after meeting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who told her he would introduce the legislation before the parliamentary summer break.

Later that same day he called the General Election, leading to Parliament being dissolved before Martyn’s Law could be enacted.

Ms Murray said: “My hopes have been raised and disappointed so many times – even on the day the election was called.

“This should be an issue that our parties agree on – not an area of systematic neglect.

“I want all parties to commit to making this a priority ahead of the election.”

Forbury Gardens inquest
Undated family handout photos issued by Thames Valley Police of (left to right) Joe Ritchie-Bennett, James Furlong, and David Wails, the three victims of the Reading terror attack (Family/PA)

Gary Furlong, whose son James was one of three friends stabbed and killed by Khairi Saadallah in the Berkshire town on June 20 2020, said politicians “promise the world” in the wake of atrocities and vow to “do everything they can to keep us safe and that survivors and bereaved families will be looked after”.

“Before this happened to my family I thought that was true – but I now know it’s not. And that’s simply not good enough.

“I brought my children up to always do the right thing, it is now up to politicians to do the same,” he added.

Brendan Cox, the widower of murdered MP Jo Cox who co-founded SAT, said: “Survivors of attacks simply want to reduce the likelihood of future attacks and make sure people who are affected are looked after.

“It’s not much to ask, yet even these modest expectations have been consistently dashed.

“Too many survivors are left languishing without basic mental health support, compensation or even recognition of their pain.

“It should shame us all.”