LAWYER SLATES SIA IN HOUSE REVIEW

A lawyer, who works with security companies, has slated the Security Industry Authority In-house Licensing Review – Outcome Report – May 2009 which concluded that “there is no clearly defined or substantiated risk to public protection to be addressed and that SIA were unable to make a case which would justify extending the SIA’s remit to include licensing of in-house guards.” Paul Housego, of Beers LLP, sets out his observations exclusively for Infologue.com:

“The Hansard report said that there would be a review “of all the arrangements” in three years time. There has not been such a review.”

In the original white paper proposing the SIA and imposing the obligation to have licensing for security officers, in house guards were included. This was put into the bill that went to Parliament. When it was going through Parliament, in house guards were removed from the scheme. One can guess at the pressure applied to ensure the removal of such security officers from the legislation. The sop was that there would be a triennial review – this is the first. The Hansard report (quoted in this report) said that there would be a review “of all the arrangements” in three years time. There has not been such a review. There has been a review as to whether it can be demonstrated that there is a risk to the public from not extending regulation to in house security officers. That is not the same thing at all. Matters such as the changes to the vetting requirements required of all employers have been ignored altogether. It is impossible to read this report as a genuine review of the position. It has all the hall marks of a continuation of the influence of the pressure groups which got in house security excluded in the first place. The review is dressed up as a proper report with lots of pretty graphs and reporting much consultation and analysis. It is no such thing, and it contains much illogicality – it appears to be worked back from the desired conclusion.

“The SIA report fails to take account of the fact that many security companies do aspire to high standards. They assert that reputation of the organisation employing in house security officers is an important stimulus to high standards.”

The consultation appears broad, superficially. But who was in the “think tanks”? How did they get into those think tanks? How were the one to one consultations arranged? All self selected one might think. The response from individuals was disappointing with very few responses, but understandably so given the cynicism about the process – cynicism which to the independent eye would seem entirely justified. Also relied on was “desk research” with no explanation at all as to what this was. The “key stakeholders” with whom there was one to one interviews are unnamed, and there is no way of knowing what was said. This is all far from transparent. (page 5 of the Security Industry Authority In-house Licensing Review – Outcome Report – May 2009). Also on page 5 of the same review, the SIA says that they considered whether there was any added value to be gained from further regulation. Conspicuous by its absence is any suggestion that fairness (the much quoted “level playing field”) comes into consideration at all. The responses to the questionnaires that were received are largely discounted as being opinions unsubstantiated by evidence. Yet the report contains conclusions that are, in reality just opinions without evidential support at all. The cost to one (unnamed) retailer is put at £5m pa. Plainly this retailer had some influential input. The argument – completely unsubstantiated by any detail at all – is that the big companies and organisations are reputable and train people to a good standard and run CRB checks, often renewing them every 3 years, and run to a standard at least as good as the SIA would impose. So – does the SIA opine that security companies are not reputable businesses who also run proper checks and train people? They overlook the simple point that the new regulations requiring all employers to establish identity and right to work in the UK post date the introduction of the SIA. The SIA report fails to take account of the fact that many security companies do aspire to high standards. They assert that reputation of the organisation employing in house security officers is an important stimulus to high standards. But the security officers are a very small part of a big retail operator/hospital/university. In contrast, security officers are the very raison d’etre of security companies. How much greater the necessity for security companies to make sure their employees are well trained and checked than for organisations for whom security is merely (and literally) housekeeping?

“The truth of the matter is that all the arguments (on page 10 of the Security Industry Authority In-house Licensing Review – Outcome Report – May 2009)  for not extending licensing to in house security officers apply equally to removing licensing for security officers employed by security companies.”

The report says that the argument for regulation is reduced because in some cases the police will ask retailers to engage an SIA security officer, for example to cover alcohol sales. This is upside down. It shows precisely the reverse. In house security should be regulated by the SIA precisely because on occasion the police insist upon it. How much better it would be if all in house security officers were SIA licensed – then there would be no problems requiring the police to insist on an in house security officer being replaced by a SIA licenced person. Or put another way, the fact that the police have insisted on SIA licences security is substantiated evidence of a need to have in house security officers licensed. Yet it is set out in the report as evidence that there is no problem. The report seeks in vain to find a risk that might prompt regulation of in house security. It says that often there is a mix of in house and outsourced (SIA licenced) security officers on any site. This completely ignores the obvious and inescapable conclusion that if there is a risk to the public in having non licenced outsourced security officers, there must be precisely the same risk for in house security officers doing parallel and identical duties. If there is no risk to the public, then the review should be recommending the removal of the requirement for contractors security officers to be licenced.

“It is not logically sustainable to say (at the same time) that the risk to the public requires that security officers be licenced by the SIA, but that there is no risk to the public arising from non licenced in house security officers working alongside them”

It is not logically sustainable to say (at the same time) that the risk to the public requires that security officers be licenced by the SIA, but that there is no risk to the public arising from non licenced in house security officers working alongside them – especially when the report states that the public does not differentiate between them. There is opposition to the extension of SIA licensing on the basis of increased regulation and cost. Increased regulation is not a bad thing – why should one security officer be regulated and the other not just because one is employed by the trader where he works and the other employed by a specialist company? The visitor from Mars would say “But shouldn’t it be the other way round?” The security company’s commercial life requires it to do a good job for its customers with good people. The retailer has every reason to cut corners to save cost. The increased cost is a fact. That is no reason not to regulate. It costs security companies to be regulated. That does not seem to be an argument to abandon regulation for them.

“There is nothing objective in the report that justifies the conclusion it sets out. It starts from the point of view that regulation should be minimised, but fails completely to establish any rationale for treating security officers differently depending on who employs them.”

There is nothing objective in the report that justifies the conclusion it sets out. It starts from the point of view that regulation should be minimised, but fails completely to establish any rationale for treating security officers differently depending on who employs them. If it were genuinely reviewing matters bearing in mind the need for as little regulation as the risks justify, then, based on what it says (and does not say about the change in statutory requirements on employers) it would be recommending that where in house and contractors security officers work together then there should be no need for the contractors security officers to be licenced if they can show the same level of training and checking as the organisation employing the in house officer. While the report (At 5.1 on page 8 of the Security Industry Authority In-house Licensing Review – Outcome Report – May 2009) refers to the argument that there should be a “level playing field” this is the only reference to it, and no where does it deal with that argument – which although a hackneyed cliché of a phrase is shorthand for a very powerful argument – government regulation should be fair. If the report cannot deal with the fairness argument it must, in my view, be flawed by that omission.

“A balanced report would set out both cases, analyse them, and only then conclude in favour of one, the other or a third outcome.”

The use of language and tense can be very revealing. If this had been a genuine review conducted with an open mind it seems unlikely that the heading on page 8 would have been “Two sides to the argument?” Why the interrogative unless the starting point was a conclusion that there should be no change? Having identified some concerns, the report then ignores them. A balanced report would set out both cases, analyse them, and only then conclude in favour of one, the other or a third outcome. The way the questions and report are framed is to lead to a predetermined conclusion.

BEERS LLP Website