Committee Reports::Report No. 04 - Controls on the private security industry::30 October, 1984::Report

Membership of the Committee

Dáil Deputies

Michael Woods — Chairman

Gay Mitchell — Vice Chairman

Bertie Ahern

Vincent Brady

John Browne

Liam Cosgrave

Joe Doyle

Jackie Fahey

Mary Flaherty

Alice Glenn

Willie O’Dea

Liam Skelly

Frank Prendergast

Mervyn Taylor

Dan Wall ace

Clerk to the Committee: F. J. Brady

1 Background to this Report

1.1 In January 1984, the Committee decided to advertise and seek submissions from members of the public and interested organisations on matters coming within its Orders of Reference. The closing date for submissions was 30th March.

1.2 The submissions were examined by the Committee which decided to pursue a number of separate areas, including proposals for controls on private security firms. Submissions were received from the Irish Security Industry Association Limited, the International Professional Security Association and the Federation of Irish Security Companies. Each of these three groups is anxious to see the introduction of some form of controls on the private security industry.

1.3 The Committee had separate meetings with each of the three groups at which the points raised in their submissions were discussed. While each group wished to see the introduction of controls, the Committee noted that such controls were designed to protect the consumer, rather than act as a means of securing a closed shop for existing firms.

1.4 Each of the three groups represents a different segment within the private security industry:

(a)Irish Security Industry Association Ltd. [ISIA]

This Association represents sixteen of the larger firms in this country involved in the private security industry. Their member companies deal with the three aspects of security, namely, physical security, alarm systems and manned security. Their combined annual turnover is in the region of £50 million and the total number employed is about 3,000 persons. While the ISIA considers that there may be as many as 500 individual units operating in the commercial security area, their member companies account for about one-half of the total business. Before being considered for full membership of this Association, firms/companies must, inter alia, (i) have a minimum turnover of £160,000 for the alarm and lock and safe sections and £400,000 in the cash-in-transit section; (ii) take out an insurance bond and (iii) comply with specified technical requirements. In addition, all member companies employ only unionised labour.

(b)International Professional Security Association [IPSA]

IPSA is a voluntary association of individuals who work in the security industry. It is a world-wide professional body which has about one hundred and forty members in the Irish Branch.Among the aims of this Association is the improvement in the level and quality of the service provided by persons in private security. To this end, the Association is very concerned with training and it organises correspondence courses for its members.

(c)Federation of Irish Security Companies [FISC]

The Federation represents sixteen companies employing a total of about 200 persons. It differs from the ISIA in that it represents smaller firms/companies engaged in private security. FISC has certain requirements before a firm/company will be accepted for membership. These include a minimum of £2,000 share capital, two years trading experience, a certificate from the applicant’s auditors, a check on the directors and a technical inspection of work performed prior to the application for membership.

2 Growth in private security firms and services offered

2.1 While the Committee was advised that there has been a very considerable growth in the number of private security firms over the past decade, it is not clear just how many such firms exist. In Ireland, the only published statistics on the security industry have come from the National Prices Commission. While their report for August/September 1979 deals with this topic, the Commission acknowledged that their figures are not reliable. They were estimating in the region of fifty-nine firms. However, the ISIA estimates that there are approximately 500 security firms. The Committee is not in a position to comment on the number of individual firms involved; however, a perusal of the Yellow Pages Classified Telephone Directories gives a total of ninety firms. This is, of course, at best, only a very rough indication, as some firms may have gone out of business, others entered the business and still others may not be listed in such a classification.

2.2 As the number of private security firms is unknown, the value of goods and property for which these firms are responsible cannot be estimated by the Committee. We were advised, however, that the turnover is in the region of £100 million.

2.3 The services offered by security companies include:


The movement of large amounts of cash in the care of security guards.

Personal security

Providing security for individuals and their homes.

Commercial security

Providing security guards for commercial premises and stores.

Security equipment

Supply and installation of intruder and fire alarms; safes and other security equipment i.e. Closed Circuit Television (CCTV).

Central Monitoring Stations

Providing a 24-hour monitoring and answering service for alarm calls and emergency call-out facilities.

Consultancy and training services

Providing advice on security and training.

2.4 The Committee was advised that those companies offering security services are assisting the Garda Síochána. It is because the Garda Síochána cannot cope with all of the aspects of crime prevention, as well as detection, that there is such a demand for private security firms.

2.5 The Garda Síochána is the law enforcement authority for the State. Their primary duty lies in the protection of the community against crime and the preservation of law and order. There are, at present, about 11,400 Gardaí to provide protection on a twenty-four hour basis for a population of over three million people. It is immediately obvious that there is a limit to the level of service which the Gardaí can give to companies, industrial and commercial premises or to private individuals or houses. It is to tackle the vulnerability of their premises to various types of crime that persons turn to private security firms to provide a security service.

2.6 Commercial security firms are, primarily, viable economic enterprises and the provision of security services is secondary to the profit motive. The Committee was advised that a large number of firms operate on the basis of obtaining new business and then endeavouring to recruit staff, who are normally engaged without any instruction or training. Staff of adequate standards are difficult to obtain and, for firms not members of ISIA or FISC, the rates of pay appear to be less than union rates. This creates a situation where such firms are in a position to tender at much lower rates for the provision of security services. This creates difficulties in public service organisations, where the practice is to accept the lowest tender, unless there is evidence to indicate that it should not be accepted. The member companies of ISIA and FISC no longer tender for the provision of such services, as they cannot compete with the other firms. The Committee was advised that the quality of the service being provided to public bodies leaves a lot to be desired; that payments to such bodies may be wasteful expenditure; and that it is difficult for public authorities to monitor the actual service provided by such private security firms.

2.7 Some of the larger commercial security firms are now vetting prospective employees and checking references. How comprehensive or effective this scheme is, is not known.

2.8 Many insurance companies now incorporate the employment of security personnel as a prerequisite to the issuing of policies, especially in areas which they regard as high risk. In addition, modern commercial enterprises necessitate the employment of security personnel to prevent cumulative losses through crime and wastage, which would not be appropriate for the Gardaí. These would include, for instance, store detectives, cash-in-transit and gate-house duties. Industry and commerce will require the foregoing services on an ever-increasing scale; the field of industrial and commercial security is a positive growth industry.

2.9 The Committee notes that C.I.E. have employed a private security firm to provide guard dogs on the new DART train service and that this has proved to be a very successful venture. The Committee was pleased to see this co-operation between a public authority and a private security firm, which has made a very positive contribution to the efforts to tackle crime and vandalism.

3 Present position in relation to controls

3.1 Although businesses like auctioneering, betting, taxi-driving and money-lending must operate under licence or must carry liability bonds, there is no such restraint on security firms.

3.2 The National Prices Commission has noted that there has been little reaction to its recommendation for official controls. In a comment, in November, 1979, it repeated the case tactfully: “The legal position, in April, 1978, regarding security firms, was the same as it was at the time of the Commission’s November 1975 Report. There were no legal provisions or requirements governing entry. The three organisations in the industry checked the bona fides of their members, but the number of firms in these groups represented only half the firms listed. All three organisations in the trade were in favour of a licensing system”. This Report went on to add “as we stated as far back as 1975, it seems to us that some form of legal requirements on entry would be desirable, provided that these requirements do not unduly restrict new entry and competition”.

3.3 The question of controls has been raised a number of times in Dáil Éireann, by means of Parliamentary Questions. A comprehensive statement of the position was given by the Minister for Justice, on 23rd October, 1979. The text of that reply is contained in Appendix B of this Report.

4 Need for controls on the private security industry

4.1 The arguments put forward in favour of some form of State control on commercial security firms include:

(i)There is no control either over people running such firms or over the staff they employ. Any person or persons can establish and advertise a security firm offering one or more of the services, outlined in paragraph 2.3 above, to the public. In the same way, any person can be accepted for employment in security duties and there are no sanctions which can be applied to employers who do not exercise adequate care in selection. There are no means whereby training of staff can be enforced or, for that matter, to check that such training facilities exist. There are no limitations on the numbers of part-time personnel that may be engaged, the conditions under which they are employed, or the hours which are worked.

(ii)There is no avenue available whereby an inefficient firm, or one whose integrity has become suspect, can be prevented from operating.

(iii)There is no mandatory requirement to obtain adequate insurance cover to protect clients in respect of the actions of the security firms’ employees; in some instances, the terms and conditions of contract incorporate a liability exclusion clause in anticipation of claims which may be made.

(iv)There are no means available whereby claims for non-performance can be brought to public notice, or pressure applied to improve performance.

(v)By the very nature of their title and the type of services they offer, trust is placed in them by their clients and by the public; breach of this trust may reflect upon others in the field of security and, subsequently, upon all forces engaged in law enforcement and the prevention of crime.

(vi)Individuals and industrial concerns, paying for a service the State cannot provide, are entitled to as much legislative protection as can be reasonably given to ensure the service is a reasonable one.

(vii)The nature of the services provided often gives access to money, confidential data, and other property to a greater degree than normal, thereby placing extreme temptation before an individual who may be poorly paid, or may, indeed, be a criminal who has taken up that employment for a specific criminal purpose.

(viii)In many instances, particularly with respect to patrolling and guarding, it is extremely difficult to establish with accuracy whether the service which is being paid for is in fact being provided — this provides an opportunity for a firm, without adequate resources, to virtually obtain money by false pretences.

(ix)With the growth of security firms and their regular appearance in uniform in public, there is a tendency for them to assume, and for the public to accept, that they have powers comparable to the Gardaí. Any pseudo-official organisation, with a form of discipline and a distinctive uniform, must not only be subject to State supervision and restriction, but must be seen to be so.

4.2 There is, at the moment, no regularly body to which the ordinary citizen can turn for advice. The nearest one approaching such a body is the Crime Prevention Office of the Garda Síochána, which is undermanned and starved of resources. The IIRS have developed, in conjunction with representatives of the insurance and security industries, an Irish Standard [IS 199 1981] for intruder alarms. There is, however, no effective inspection procedure for installations. In addition, IS 199 relates only to the standard of equipment and installation — it does not mean that the alarm will provide any minimum level of security. Some insurance companies also provide advice and assistance on security measures for homes and business. Yet, even here, discounts and/or equipment approval can be highly selective.

4.3 In their submission to the Committee, the Federation of Irish Security Companies stated that “If a security officer and guard dog are assigned to protect a premises, the dog has to be licensed but the man does not”.

5 Suggested forms of control

5.1 The means by which control could be operated on firms providing a private security service, revolve around licences granted by the District Court, or a trading bond/licence issued by a Government Department. Both systems would be very similar and would require the provision of specific information in relation to the application, providing details of the persons involved to the Gardaí and obtaining an insurance bond for the protection of the public.

District Court

5.2 If the controls were to be by means of a District Court licence, the procedure/requirements could be along the following lines:

(i)Every application for a licence should be made in writing to the District Court, not less than one month before the date of hearing, with a copy to the local Superintendent.

(ii)Every application should contain (a) the names, addresses and previous occupations of all Directors, senior personnel and all other staff engaged in the direct provision of services, (b) details of the Insurers and extent of insurance cover which the firm intends to provide, together with details of fidelity bonding which will be applied to the employees, (c) the description and type of uniform which will be worn, (d) the form of identification that will be carried, (e) details of equipment intended to be used, for example, radio controlled vans, personal radios, dogs, means, if any, of protection or defence and (f) details of training programmes which will be given to employees operating in public and in uniform.

(iii)In deciding to grant a licence, the District Court should take into full account any representations made by the Gardaí, in addition to considering the adequacy of the facts outlined in the application.

(iv)Each licence should be valid for twelve months from the date of issue, its renewal should be at the discretion of the District Court, which should take into account any further representations by the Gardaí, convictions of employees whilst working for the applicant, justifiable complaints by clients or members of the public against the applicant, or any of his employees.

(v)Each firm so licensed should maintain a register of all employees showing the full name, address, date of birth of each individual, together with the date of his commencement of service. This Register should be retained at the registered office or principal place of business of the firm and it should be available at all reasonable times for inspection on request by the Gardaí.

(vi)Each employee of such firm should, in addition to any uniform which he may wear, carry a means of identification which is satisfactory to the Gardaí.

(vii) Any person(s) or body corporate should be guilty of an offence should it offer services of this nature when not in possession of a licence.

5.3 Suitable licence fees should be imposed for the initial application and subsequent renewals, thus obviating any charges on public funds.

5.4 The primary objectives are to establish whether the prospective licencee is offering a financially and physically viable service with adequate protection for its clients, and to enable objections to be lodged through the Gardaí, based upon the character and integrity of the applicants, the calibre of their employees, the quality of their service and any other aspects which may be material to the public interest.

Trading Bond/Licence

5.5 If a system, whereby a bond was being issued by a Government Department, was used the procedure could take the following forms:

(i)All companies offering security services would be required to register with the Garda Síochána, on the receipt of a trading bond/licence from the Department.

(ii)To obtain a trading bond/licence each company would be required to supply names, addresses and previous occupations of its directors, senior personnel and all staff who are employed in the direct provision of security services.

(iii)Each company would also be required to supply information regarding the exact type of business engaged in; details of security equipment used and details of staff training.

(iv)When applying to the Department for a trading bond/licence each company would be required to provide proof that they are adequately insured with a reputable insurance company.

(v)Only when the conditions specified in (ii) to (iv) above are met would a trading bond/licence be issued.

(vi)All companies issued with a trading bond/licence would be required to display the licence number on all their printed stationery and to have the bond/licence in a prominent or public position within their premises.

(vii)All companies who are issued with a trading bond/licence to operate must update, on an annual basis, the information supplied when their initial application was made.

(viii)The Department would be the inspecting body and have the power to withdraw a trading bond/licence, if it was found that a particular security company was not adhering to the conditions or standards set out in that company’s original application.

6 Controls in operation in other areas

6.1 Controls are operated by the State in many areas of activity which affect the public and the public interest. These controls may have been introduced for differing reasons, some, no doubt, primarily for the purpose of raising revenue and others for the protection of the public. The Committee considered the controls which exist in relation to auctioneers, bookmakers, taxi-drivers and travel agents and tour operators.


6.2 Controls on persons setting up as auctioneers are contained in the Auctioneers and House Agents Acts 1947 to 1973. Any person interested in obtaining an Auctioneer’s licence must first apply to the District Court for a certificate of qualification. The legislation provides grounds on which a certificate may be refused, including (a) the situation where the court finds that “the applicant is not a fit and proper person to hold a certificate” and (b) “that an individual responsible or proposed to be responsible for the management of the applicant’s business and also, in the case of an unincorporated body, that any individual member of the body, is a person whose application might be refused under this section if he himself applied for a certificate of qualification”.

6.3 At least twenty-eight days before applying for a certificate of qualification, the applicant must (a) notify, in writing, the appropriate Garda Superintendent of his intention of making the application and (b) insert a notice in a newspaper circulating in the District Court area in which he proposes to have his principal place of business in the State. The applicant must maintain in the High Court a fidelity guarantee bond of £10,000, or lodge that sum with the High Court at least twenty-eight days before making application.

6.4 If a certificate of qualification is granted, the applicant then applies to the Revenue Commissioners for a licence.


6.5 The Betting Act, 1931 makes provision for the better regulation and control of persons engaged in the business of bookmaking. It provides that any person who desires to obtain a bookmaker’s licence may apply for a Certificate of Personal Fitness to a Superintendent of the Garda Síochána. The Act specifies grounds on which a Superintendent may refuse a Certificate and these include that the applicant is, by reason of his general character or his known habits, not a fit person to hold a bookmaker’s licence. A person to whom a Certificate of Personal Fitness is issued may apply for a licence to the Revenue Commissioners, who also maintain a register of bookmaking offices, in respect of which a certificate of suitability of premises must be obtained from a Garda Superintendent. The Act provides a means of appeal from a refusal to issue a certificate of personal fitness or suitability of premises.


6.6 The Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) (Licensing) Regulations, 1978 (S.I. No. 292 of 1978) prescribes the procedure for the licensing of public service vehicles (taxis). The Regulations provide that appropriate local authorities will determine the number of new public hire vehicle licences which may be granted by the Garda Commissioner. A licence shall not be granted by the Commissioner unless he is satisfied that, among other matters, the character and previous conduct of the applicant are such that the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold such a licence.

Travel agents and tour operators

6.7 The Transport (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Act, 1982 provides for the regulation of the travel trade and the protection of customers of tour operators and travel agents.

6.8 A person shall not carry on business as a tour operator or a travel agent, unless he is the holder of a licence issued by the Minister for Transport in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The Minister shall refuse a licence if he is not satisfied that such person complies with the requirements of the Act and if he is not satisfied that—

“(a)the financial, business and organisational resources of such person and any financial arrangements made or to be made by him are adequate for discharging his actual and potential obligations in respect of the activities (if any) in which he is engaged or in which he proposes to engage if the licence is granted, or

(b)having regard to the past activities of such person or of any person employed by him or, if such person is a body corporate, having regard to the past activities of any director, secretary, shareholder, officer or servant of the body corporate, such person is a fit and proper person to carry on business as a tour operator or travel agent, as the case may be”.

6.9 The Act also provides for the making of regulations by the Minister setting out, among other matters, the conditions that shall be complied with before a licence is granted, the manner in which applications are made and the nature and extent of the information to be provided. In addition, applicants for a licence must be bonded so that, in the event of their inability or failure to meet their commitments, a sum of money is available to the Minister to meet such obligations.

7 The control of the private security industry in other countries

United Kingdom

7.1 The Home Office produced a discussion paper entitled The Private Security Industry: A Discussion Paper — in 1979 (HMSO 4/79). This paper was designed to contribute to the debate on the need for controls on the private security industry. The paper provides background information about the private security industry and discusses some of the issues raised by the question of control. The report includes data on the situation in other countries which is reproduced as Appendix C to this Report.


7.2 The General Secretariat of Interpol was requested, at the 47th Session of the General Assembly in 1978, to study the relations between the police and private security bodies. A questionnaire, which was issued to all National Central Bureaus, brought a response from 62 countries, of which 18 had no firms involved in this activity. Of the 44 countries with private security firms, a total of 29 state that official authorisation is required to set up a company installing security equipment and/or providing security guard services.

7.3 In 19 countries, the activities of private security bodies are checked by the police or other authorities or associations. The report does not specify how many of these are checked by the police, but simply states that most of the 19 are checked by the police. In 25 countries, the police or other authorities check on the character and/or criminal records of staff employed by security firms.

8 Recommendations of the Committee

8.1 The Committee is very conscious of the important role which the private security industry plays in the prevention of crime. However, the fact that there are no controls on entry to the industry means that anybody can set up in business without any experience or knowledge. Indeed, persons can use the opportunity presented to them by being engaged in the provision of a security service to further their criminal intent.

8.2 Because persons engaged in the provision of security services are placed in a position of trust, greater than that in most other areas of commercial activity, the Committee considers that there is a need for the regulation of the profession. Accordingly, the Committee recommends the introduction of controls, which would ensure that all persons engaged in the provision of private security services should be required to comply with certain minimum standards.

8.3 The Committee has no preference as to whether the Courts or a Government Minister is responsible for operating the licensing system. The Committee considers that, as a prerequisite to the issuing of a licence, the responsible authority should be enabled to satisfy itself as to the organisational, financial and business resources of the applicant and to consider whether such a person is a fit and proper person to be issued with a licence.

8.4 The Committee has noted the difficulties outlined by a Minister for Justice in answer to a Parliamentary Question (Appendix B). However, it is of the view that, as a minimum measure, there should be a requirement for all firms providing a security service to register with the Garda Síochána, and for all persons operating in this area to be in a position to produce a standard official form of identification. There is an essential need for some form of control on the operation of this business, apart from the market forces.

8.5 The Committee recommends that immediate action be taken to introduce controls on the private security industry and that these controls should provide for registration with the Garda Síochána, provided certain requirements are met. This system should have no discretionary element in the registration of firms. The purpose would be to require all persons and firms/companies operating in the private security industry to be registered with the Gardaí. It could be made an offence to provide any such services while unregistered. The procedure for such registration could include the provision of basic information (as outlined at section 5 above) about the business, which would then be available to the public.

9 Acknowledgement

9.1 The Committee wishes to express its appreciation of the work of the Clerk to the Committee, Mr. F. J. Brady and of its Secretary, Miss G. Murphy.

9.2Thanks are due to the representatives of the—

(a)Irish Security Industry Association

—Mr. J. Broderick, President, Mr. Hudson, Mr. Fenton and Mr. E. Cox.

(b)International Professional Security Association

—Mr. D. Dunne, Mr. J. Walsh and Mr. M. Sutton.

(c)Federation of Irish Security Companies

—Mr. I. Frawley, Mr. D. O’Callaghan and Mr. P. Tattersall.

9.3 Each of these groups made valuable submissions to the Committee. In addition, they gave of their time to attend at a meeting to clarify and discuss the points raised in their submissions.

Michael Woods T.D.


30 October, 1984.