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The Manchester Arena Inquiry has now concluded. The closure notice from the Inquiry Chairman is available here.

Volume 1: Security for the Arena
Volume 1: Security for the Arena (large format)

The Security Industry Authority regime

Background to the SIA and its functions

The Security Industry Authority was set up by the Private Security Industry Act 2001 (the ‘2001 Act’) which came into force in 2003.186 There had been concerns at the way people employed in security carried out their duties in locations such as licensed premises. As a result of that legislation, security operatives were required to obtain a license before they could carry out certain security functions.187

Different licences are required depending on the function which the operative is employed to carry out. In order to obtain a licence, a fee has to be paid, the applicant has to be over 18 and has to pass a qualifying examination, a criminal records check must be completed and the applicant must have the right to work in the UK.188 The fee, at the time of the hearing, for a door supervisor licence was £190.189 The necessary qualifications are granted not by the SIA itself but by a number of government-approved awarding organisations who are subject to supervision by Ofqual. Training providers are approved by the awarding organisations and the awarding organisations are responsible for quality controlling providers.190 Most of the training for the qualification is intended to be in person with a small part of it being online training.191

The Inquiry heard criticisms from two witnesses about the quality of the training they had received. In one case, none of the training was in person.192 In another, the candidates were told the answers to the exam questions by the training provider.193 I was not in a position to investigate how justified those complaints were, but the SIA are now aware of them and I would expect them to investigate whether they are accurate. Making sure that the training is done properly and professionally is obviously important. The SIA should make sure that there are regular and unannounced checks carried out on training providers. I heard evidence that the awarding organisations do this already,194 but it would also be worthwhile for the SIA or Ofqual to consider carrying out spot checks with SIA-licensed individuals who have received the training to get a better idea of what actually happens.

The content of the training has changed since 2017 and now includes a greater proportion and better quality of counter-terrorism training.195 The SIA has said that if a Protect Duty becomes law, and includes mandatory ‘Action Counters Terrorism’ (ACT) training, that it would include that as part of its course work.196 I will consider the Protect Duty when I come to consider my recommendations. The SIA expects employers to carry on with in-house training after the initial qualification has been achieved. At the moment, whether employers provide follow-up training is voluntary.197 Where it is provided, it is often online. Whether employees actually carry out online training depends on their willingness to do so. It is obviously important that checks are carried out to ensure that the online training is carried out and that information is absorbed and understood.

Relevance of SIA licensing to 22nd May 2017

The two areas of activity where an SIA licence was required which were relevant to this Inquiry are door supervisors and CCTV operators. There is little incentive for contractors to ensure that licences are obtained. To obtain a licence the applicant needs to be 18. The security business employs large numbers of people under that age who are cheaper to employ. Providing more SIA licensed door supervisors is an expense which may be passed onto the hirer.

It was accepted in the hearing that Showsec used unlicensed staff to do bag checks. This is activity which is part of a door supervisor role and requires a licence.198 Showsec knew such staff should be licensed. The issue was drawn to Showsec’s attention in 2013 by its head of training and confirmed by the SIA.199 Despite this, the use of unlicensed staff to check bags was continuing at the date of the Attack.200

This demonstrates the lack of effective enforcement measures to ensure that the requirements of the 2001 Act are carried out, despite the fact that breaches of the 2001 Act are criminal offences which carry maximum sentences of imprisonment. There are only 50 enforcement officers employed by the SIA covering the whole of the country and a single officer in Manchester, where there are approximately 18,000 SIA licence holders.201 While there is some proactive intervention from enforcement officers, in reality, the SIA have to rely on information from partners, such as police officers, along with complaints from the public, to inform them of potential breaches.202

The other area requiring a licence the Inquiry heard evidence about was CCTV operators. An individual operating CCTV equipment requires a licence, if that person proactively monitors the activities of members of the public, whether they are in public areas or on private property. This is required if the individual is working for a contractor who is working under a contract for services. As set out in Part 2, I am satisfied that it was likely this was the status of at least one of SMG’s employees who operated the CCTV on 22nd May 2017.203

In November 2015, a complaint was made to the SIA that the CCTV at the Arena was being operated by unlicensed operators. The complaint was in relation to Showsec operating the CCTV.204 As the evidence revealed, Showsec did provide employees to work in Whisky Control.205 On occasions, those staff monitored the CCTV;206 although whether this was before or after the complaint, I am not able to say.

The complaint was dismissed on the basis that the CCTV operators were “in-house”.207 This conclusion was reached on the SIA’s understanding that the CCTV was operated only by SMG employees.208

It would be of benefit to all CCTV operators to undertake the SIA licence training or something similar. The SIA CCTV operator’s licence training includes content designed to assist identification of a person who may be carrying an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) by reference to the circumstances that should arouse suspicion, such as suspicious behaviour or clothing.209

The evidence that I heard suggests that it was not just Showsec employees who required a licence to operate the CCTV. SMG employees were operating the CCTV pursuant to a contract to provide security for the building, the facilities management agreement. That is a contract for services, and it was mandatory for those employees to have licences. If that is correct, then it may be that the SIA got it wrong when they concluded that no offence had been committed. I do not know what the SIA were told by SMG when they investigated the matter and, in particular, whether they were told of the existence of the facilities management agreement.

In any event, it does seem odd that there should be a distinction in the need for a licence depending on whether the operator is working under a contract for services or as a direct employee. The same skills are required and there would seem to be a good argument for saying that training is required when operating a CCTV camera focused on a public space, whatever the employment status of the person doing it.210 I will deal with this further in my recommendations.

The SIA also runs an Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) which operates on a voluntary basis and has around 800 members.211 Showsec are an approved contractor212 and have played a prominent part in setting up the scheme. That makes it even more regrettable that, for a period of years, it has been allowing its unlicensed staff to carry out bag checks, even when Showsec knew they ought to have licences. The ACS appears to be principally self-certifying, but assessors do appraise the conduct of the contractors concerned.213 If the ACS is continued or expanded, it is important that the ACS brings with it a quality assurance on which the public can rely.