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SIA chief at Institute webinar

The Manchester Arena Inquiry into the suicide terrorism of May 2017 may lead to a re-opening of the question of SIA licensing of security businesses, a webinar by the Security Institute with the acting chief executive of the Security Industry Authority, Michelle Russell, pictured, heard.

This came after a question from the webinar audience aired by the webinar chair, the chief exec of the Institute, Rick Mounfield. Michael Russell pointed out that business licensing, rather than of individuals, was a political decision of the Home Office.

The Arena Inquiry is hearing from all those connected with the security of the Arena on the night of the suicide bomb, including the SIA and the SIA-approved contractor Showsec that provided the event security and stewarding at the venue, besides the emergency services. The Institute heard on Monday at another webinar by Home Office civil servant Kevin McNulty an outline of the proposed ‘Protect duty’ that a year ago the Government said (unusually) it would go out to consultation on. That consultation is imminent, the Monday webinar heard.

Asked where the SIA stood on the ‘Protect duty’, Michelle Russell said that the regulator was waiting to see, like the security industry. She pointed to where such a duty – to take responsibility for the security of people at a ‘publicly accessible location’, formerly known as crowded places – might apply, whether buildings and venues or more widely; and what the duty might cover: risk assessment, risk management, and how the duty might be supported by guidance and how it might be enforced where standards are not met. She did add that in some respects the duty went at the heart ‘of what we are here to do, protecting the public’.

She began the webinar by going over the SIA’s role and remit. Among the statistics she gave, 25 per cent of intelligence leads come from the public; 20 per cent from police, 5pc from the anonymous crime reporting line Crimestoppers; 4pc from SIA licence holders and 2pc from security businesses. She admitted that she had been surprised – she joined the SIA a year ago – that so few of the leads came from the industry; from experience of other regulators – she came to the SIA from the charity sector regulator, the Charity Commission, the split is usually one third each from the public, police and sector.

On the coronavirus pandemic, she said: “There’s a real opportunity to seize on the fact that the public’s eyes have been opened in a slightly different way over the last year,” by the work done by front line security staff. She said that she had been struck by how – as told by senior security sector people to the SIA last September – that security operatives had, on top of their regular tasks of protecting buildings against illegal activity, security staff had policed covid rules, such as for the wearing of face masks, and queue management: “They just did it, they took on that challenge on top of everything else they are doing.”

The Protect duty as set out by Home Office minister James Brokenshire and civil servant Shaun Hipgrave in separate December talks, and sceptical industry views of it, were featured in the January 2021 print edition of Professional Security magazine.

More in the April 2021 print edition of Professional Security magazine.


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