2010 in review – The SIA – A year of change

In our 2010 annual review series the first feature is a review by Security Industry Authority (SIA) Chairman Baroness Ruth Henig – It has certainly been a year of change for the SIA; the Government announcement of a ‘transition to a new regulatory regime’ has presented new challenges for the organisation and it now begins to work with the industry to shape the future of regulation of private security. SIA Chairman Baroness Ruth Henig looks back at the past twelve months. 

Compliance and enforcement 

We saw a successful start to 2010 as the SIA won the long-running case against Sabrewatch for employing unlicensed operatives back when the SIA was first established. The company and its three directors were fined a total of more than £125,000 at Southwark crown court, confirming the SIA’s will and power to prosecute, and closing a chapter by concluding a case which had been running since the SIA’s early days. Other successful enforcement action by the SIA over the year has included the prosecution of two security guard brothers working without licences, a security director fined for supplying unlicensed guards, and another director fined for failing to provide information to the SIA. We have also continued our regular compliance operations, checking hundreds of security operatives throughout the UK, joining our partners such as the police and local authorities in our aim of ensuring all those working in these positions of trust are licensed. Operations will be taking place during coming weeks as venues start gearing up for the busy Christmas period. 

Regulation of the private security industry in Northern Ireland came into force in late December 2009, with in-house door supervisors following in April 2010, and we have now seen one year of successful regulation in Northern Ireland. The devolved administration has demonstrated that it has recognised the importance of SIA licensing, with high compliance levels found during our checks and operations. All of these activities have been overseen by our new director of Compliance and Enforcement Dave Humphries, who joined the organisation at the beginning of 2010, and has been working on our enforcement approach and strategy. 

Customer service, licensing and training 

In other senior staff moves, Edward Weiss joined Robin Dahlberg, Wendy Towers, Bill Matthews and Linda Sharpe on the board, while Peter Dyke, Brendan O’Friel and Bruce Warman departed. We have been working on maintaining our customer service levels and in July published our customer service commitment, based on our objectives to deliver a service that meets the needs of customers and delivers value, setting out what customers can expect in respect to enquiries and process applications.  

The licensing process is working smoothly and licences are being issued relatively speedily. In July we launched e-Fill, our online licence application form to give choice to applicants and increase our e-services, while also aiming to speed up the time taken to issue the licence by allowing completion of the form electronically. Overall, we have seen evidence of the positive impact of SIA licensing on the industry, with important research published by the SIA in August revealing mostly positive views about this area, which were gauged from 1,148 interviews with door supervisors and security guards. 

The SIA hit the headlines in June as significant additions were made to the training for door supervisors to reflect up to date working practices. These included practical assessment of physical intervention skills, awareness of terrorist threats and of first aid, and considerations when dealing with young people. The new structure, with core plus specialist modules, means less overlap and duplication in content across the sectors, making it easier to get qualified to obtain more than one licence. 

Working with stakeholders and the future of regulation 

We have continued to support the popular network meetings, organised by those in each sector as a forum for discussion and questions. Meetings in the close protection, vehicle immobilisation, door supervision and CCTV sectors took place throughout the year, as well as meetings for those running small businesses.  

Working with the industry and wider stakeholders is going to be of the utmost importance to us as we work together to ensure a smooth phased transition to a new regulatory regime. The SIA held an initial meeting at the end of October, calling together a number of industry representatives and stakeholders. During this session, the SIA’s initial framework for phased transition, reflecting the proposals I first set out at our conference in June, was discussed. James Kelly gave an industry view from the Security Alliance. We are now looking to develop a framework for the future and a delivery plan for presentation to ministers early next year – to this end a further stakeholder meeting will be held in the New Year. 

New regulation will build on the successes of SIA licensing and the Approved Contractor Scheme, and because of the timescales involved to ensure things are done properly ministers have said that there will not be any major changes to SIA regulation or ACS before the London Olympics 2012. We intend to protect the investment licence holders and companies have made in training and SIA licensing so that they are not disadvantaged under the new system. But it is important that everyone in the security sectors understands that at present the current law remains in place. It is a criminal offence for security operatives and those deploying them to work in licensable activities without a valid SIA licence and we and our partners are continuing to ensure that the law is properly enforced. 

It is of course essential that we hear your views and concerns. On our website is a new section Future of Regulation where we will be posting information on the latest developments. Please do make sure you keep in touch. Visit the SIA website to sign up to receive our regular electronic newsletters, or follow us on Twitter (SIAuk) or on Facebook (Security Industry Authority). We need your input as together we begin to develop the outline of future regulation.