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Policing and private security: there’s more than one way to skin a cat

With access to intelligence, and a potential frontline view on organised crime and spiking former ACC Paul Fullwood tells Police Oracle the Security Industry Authority could provide an additional tool set when tackling crime.

An arm’s length body that reports directly to the Home Office, the SIA was established in 2001 to regulate those working in the private security industry through individual licencing and the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme for businesses.

Currently, there are around 400,000 regulated people (around 90 per cent of whom are men) across the UK operating across 6,500 businesses.

To become regulated, individuals need to be vetted and have completed a training course. The roles encompass door supervisors, security guards, CCTV monitors, those involved in the transit of cash and valuables and in Northern Ireland vehicle immobilisation (clamping).

The private security industry, however, from door supervisors through to security guards, finds itself face to face with many of the big issues policing is also dealing with – organised crime, counter terrorism, VAWG.

SIA Director of Inspections and Enforcement, Paul Fullwood, told Police Oracle: “I'm forever saying to the police service that we're an organisation that's really quite proactive and agile. We can be your eyes and ears, we can we can work with you and support you. But we need to share information and intelligence more effectively.”

He gave Police Oracle the example of when he gave evidence at the Home Affairs Select Committee on spiking. When asked about spiking by needles, he told the Committee he was aware of around 50 incidents in the last couple of years. When police representatives came in after, however, they spoke about incidents in their thousands.

The standards department within the SIA which works much in the way professional standards departments do within policing. Under the directorate are three departments; intelligence (working closely with force intelligence bureaus, NCA and CT policing), inspections and criminal investigations.

As with policing, there are instances where individuals have made mistakes or haven’t followed their training properly, but there are also instances of “wrong-uns”.

“It would be really naïve to think that there’s not organised crime involved in the private security industry or people who are inappropriate to women or vulnerable people,” Mr Fullwood said.

“I often have conversations with policing and with the NCA around how we can share more, while staying within the rules of course.

“The difference with the SIA is that the police deal with criminal offences, but we are able to use civil powers. There’s more than one way to skin a cat in terms of how we tackle organised crime.  

“We investigate under private security industry offences, but we also investigate fraud, we suspend and ban people and we disrupt and dismantle organised crime. We are also able to work on a balance of probabilities, rather than beyond reasonable doubt.

“If, for example, there's a door supervisor who's involved in a nasty fight outside a club generally he or she will be dealt with by the police, they'll be arrested, but they don't always get charged immediately.

“There might be a number of reasons for that – the need for more witnesses, or there might be more to the incident.

“However, we're able to suspend immediately and if they are convicted or charged, for example, we can then dismiss them and take away their licence.”

The SIA can take people to both civil and criminal courts and has additionally held powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act since 2015. Paul Fullwood estimates they have recovered around £1m from businesses across the last few years.

They work with forces where appropriate, but they can also pursue their own prosecutions and have their own prosecuting authority.

“In policing you have to take an offence to the CPS, there's two standards - the evidentiary standard and the public interest,” Mr Fullwood explained.

“Whereas in the SIA, we've got our own legal team. Effectively what happens is there's a process where if we think there's sufficient evidence, we make a referral, it goes into the legal team, and they carry out our prosecutions on our behalf. They are like a pseudo-CPS, but probably better staffed and better resourced.

“[Moreover], if we can prove criminality or prove the money has been gained through offences under the Private Security Act or other offences we can make an order under Proceeds of Crime.”

The SIA works within the College PIP process – their investigators are PIP 2 or aspiring to be and those working in intelligence are IPP (Intelligence professionalisation programme).

Future areas for the SIA might be smartcards carried by individuals with  details such as an individual’s training and when they were last deployed. They have also recently purchased a number of body worn cameras.

Paul Fullwood added: “The police have got a lot of priorities that are probably above and beyond private security - serious sexual offences and burglary etc. I think also there's 43 different ways of doing things [which can make things more difficult]. Not working with the SIA is a missed opportunity.”

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