John Robertson – A Security Industry Built on Modern Slavery

John Robertson, Managing Director of International Fraud & Investigation Services, discusses the pervasiveness of modern slavery within the UK security industry and what steps need to be taken to address the situation.

Since early 2022 I’ve been investigating a number of items which led me to discover that modern slavery and worker exploitation are rife throughout the security industry. The 1st red flag for me was when I discovered a Romanian national protecting a home for the vulnerable who’s basic English was very basic, but he was eating a raw onion like it was an apple and he was in no fit state to be at work. It was very clear he was hiding something from me, which was the fact he shouldn’t have been in the country.

We are interconnected to each other technologically like we have never been before, and with all the benefits that brings, it also brings misuse, criminal gangs can organise themselves via social media and have a very effective “crime hub” set up within hours.

In the old days misuse was easy to spot, gangs would turn up at sites and threaten to break the site managers legs if he did not make the right security choice, to get round this the decision has been moved to group procurement so the guys on site can say “not my decision, go away”. And by moving to companies who state on their websites that they do have modern slavery policies and they do have codes of conduct, everyone took their eye off the ball. The small independents who do go about their business legally have to accept that the work they were getting will now be subcontracted by a national provider.

Some of the national providers strictly enforce those policies from management to on site resource. Some unfortunately do not, they only care about revenue and reporting revenue upstairs. If you use the post office as an example it is clear there was no thinking about the “bigger picture” or the impact desk decisions would have on society. And this follows the same suit, only caring about the success and reputation of their own organisation blind to the impact it has on society. The little guys who have had to accept their new “place” can’t get work because even though they have cut their prices to the bone. The criminals are getting the work using exploited labour, and now even worse the exploited labour now has counterfeit badges.

This is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, there are a million hypothetical situations that could happen due to this abuse, and it has to end. The industry as a whole has to evolve with the crime and stamp it out. Some parties who have been affected by this have organised and have been collecting intelligence and passing to the SIA which I hope will greenlight serious prosecutions, but it is not all down to the regulator they cant just snap their fingers and make the problem go away and some of the crimes are not in their jurisdiction as it has evolved.

The legislation needs to evolve in parallel. The Companies Act 2006 was no longer enough to keep everyone legit in general which has been given a huge shot of steroids with the ECCTA 2023 and I believe the PSIA 2001 also needs a similar shot of steroids to give the SIA the tools to regulate and prosecute the Tier 1 suppliers without fear of having their legs cut out from under them and suffering reputational of financial damage.

To highlight these issues and have a legal precedent set I have brought a set of claims to the High Court which I will give evidence for and the entire case will be based on prosecuting using the PSIA 2001 and ECCTA 2023. So that any prosecution for worker exploitation or modern slavery in the security industry can use this as a benchmark. I shouldn’t have had to go to these lengths myself as I thought when I reported these matters it would be easily actionable but its not I can assure you of that.