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Competent persons scheme

As reported in the July print edition of Professional Security magazine, counter-terror police have begun work on a ‘competent persons scheme’ as part of the larger proposed Protect Duty or Martyn’s Law, which would be a legal requirement on buildings and places to take responsibility for counter-terror security. Mark Rowe offers some pointers to what the competent persons scheme might mean for UK private security.

1) whatever the details turn out to be, it’ll be a big deal. For consider, even if for whatever reason the scheme should not apply to you and you do not seek to qualify as a ‘competent person’, what does that make you when you next apply for a job? Incompetent?!

2) it’s a big job of work for Nactso, the National Counter-Terror Security Office, to work out, and no wonder they are talking about taking two years, quite apart from when the greater Protect Duty becomes law. As featured in the July edition, the Protect Duty did not get a mention in the Queen’s Speech proper and other Home Office business did, signalling that the Protect Duty won’t find a place in the legislative calendar for the next 12 months; the Duty in any case awaiting any political outcome from the final reports from the Manchester Arena Inquiry.

But meanwhile Nactso have to anticipate the Home Office’s intentions; and work out what ‘persons’ might fall under the scheme – someone with security in their job title, or a general building or facilities manager? And how to define competent – an SIA badge? Something along the lines of a responsible person for fire safety? Will a competent person have to pass an exam to show competence? Will there have to be CPD (continuous professional development) – because you or I may have an O Level or GSCE in French, but we might not be much good to each other on a day trip to Boulogne.

As evidence of just how large a piece of work this is, consider the 2020 document brought out to map the government security profession. While police may not be the best qualified to do this mapping, the other side of the coin is that the security industry does not have a centre of excellence to draw on. It has many fine trainers and authorities, industry bodies doing meritworthy work to try to advance security management into a profession, but nothing or no-one to tie the threads together.

3) Hence as with any new legal requirement, we can expect sales people offering various products and services that they say will meet the scheme – compliance software (so that you document what you do, as important for the process as installing something), trainers, consultants, sellers of video surveillance cameras, airport-style screening machines.

4) To buy a product or service may serve legally to meet any Protect Duty, or it may be you are buying snake-oil. Likewise, just as Grenfell happened despite a fire safety regime, so we should never mistake a competent persons scheme for actual national security posture to meet terrorism or indeed any security or other threat, such as CBRN (featured in the July edition).

For one thing, even if your building has a ‘competent person’, what if next door does not? Terrorists will not discriminate any more than fire. For another, the reality for police officers, investigators and caseworkers across the country, is that they are ‘knocking on the doors of family homes‘, as Counter Terrorism Policing’s Senior National Coordinator, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, said earlier this month; as a younger generation of offenders are accessing and viewing dangerous propaganda online.


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