New body to monitor private security


From next April it will be an offence to ask a few people from your local boxing or martial arts club if they would work as security men for a few hours a night.

Those employing security guards and door supervisors will have to ensure they are licensed by then, according to Damien Ward, director of the newly established Private Security Authority.

Mr Ward told The Irish Times that a "head in the sand" attitude pervaded the private security industry, which was unregulated until the passing of the Private Security Services Act earlier this year, and hundreds of companies remain unregistered.

The Act provides for the licensing of a range of operators, including those putting in burglar alarms, and for sanctions against those who are unregistered. While the authority opened for registrations last October, much of the industry remains unlicensed.

Those covered by the legislation also include private investigators, security consultants, cash in transit operators, locksmiths and suppliers of safes.

There is a licence for contractors supplying the service and one for employees, which includes ID cards. The first group who will have to comply with the legislation are door supervisors and security guards, who will have to show licences from April 1st.

Cash-in-transit suppliers will have to be licensed by the beginning of June and those supplying security equipment such as burglar alarms by the beginning of August.

Because the legislation covers those employing contractors, it will be an offence to employ the services of an unregistered contractor from the operational dates, with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. A summary conviction carries a fine of €3,000 or up to 12 months in prison. It is also an offence to offer a security service without a licence.

A licence will only be granted to companies that meet a certain standard, either that set by the National Standards Authority or, where a standard for a sector does not yet exist, standards will be set by the PSA with the National Standards Authority.

These will address issues such as company organisation, insurance, staffing and training, terms of employment and the keeping of appropriate records.

Mr Ward said security services were provided on a cost basis, without people thinking about quality. "In an unregulated market, the lowest cost will always win out, regardless of quality," he said. "The PSA's mission is to affect and transform the private security industry throughout Ireland.

"Hundreds of companies are failing to reach standards for those sectors, which is a prerequisite for licensing," he said.

Members of the public will be able to complain to the Private Security Authority about companies or individual security guards who they feel do not provide a satisfactory service, or meet the necessary standards.

The authority also has the power to monitor service-providers without receiving any complaint and will be able to revoke licences where it is satisfied that the safety or welfare of any person might be at risk from the continuation of the licence.