Coulson: Heavyhanded SIA passes buck again

Related tags Sia License

Coulson: Heavyhanded SIA  passes buck again
The history of the SIA is littered with errors, says MA's legal editor

The history of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) has not been a happy one. There have been difficulties all along the way with its attempts to put in place a proportionate and efficient system for vetting doorstaff and other security personnel. But it has not helped itself by its attitude and responses.

Yet again, it appears that the buck is being passed with frantic haste, after the news that more than 11,000 licensed doorstaff may not have the right to work in this country, for one reason or another.

Letters have been sent out, requiring responses within 21 days from all these "vetted" people.

It appears that the thorough and comprehensive check carried out by this organisation and much-trumpeted by themselves on regular occasions, did not actually cover the right to be in this country at all, or to work here - two of the key elements for any foreign applicant for a job.

The question that seems not to be asked at the moment is: why not? In designing a checking scheme in such a sensitive area, surely those at the top of the SIA could have recognised the preponderance of foreign and immigrant workers who are likely to be in this sector.

It seems that the actual right-to-work issue - which could clearly have been checked fairly quickly and efficiently, either on the application form or thereafter - was not carried out "because the SIA has no legal responsibility to do so".

This is from an agency that claims every time it makes an announcement to the press that it aims to be "a model of good regulation". It also claims to be accountable. Well, in this instance, it is doing its best not to hold up

its hands.

Accountability

This whole question of accountability is a weasel word in Government. We were told that the new licensing authorities would be "accountable". But it is clear that they are not - no one has any power to issue sanctions or penalties if they get things wrong. If you want to appeal against their decision, it will cost you £400, thanks to a swingeing increase in fees by the Ministry of Justice last year.

Now we have another crisis on our hands, because it seems that a large percentage of the doorstaff, on which the trade relies to fulfil its licensing conditions, will be prevented from working when the 21-day ultimatum is reached this month.

But there is no get-out for the trade. It is a requirement of the alcohol-licensing system that doorstaff must be SIA-licensed. There will be no concessions here - failure to comply with this can lead to prosecution and to the possible curtailment or revocation of the premises licence.

Heavy handed

The SIA has never proved itself to be efficient, yet one of its first actions was to get heavy-handed with the licensed trade.

Former chairman Molly Meacher famously told licensees that they could be put in prison if they failed to comply with the Act. Despite being challenged several times - by me in this newspaper and by letter, among others - she failed ever to demonstrate the truth of this remark. Ever since then, the SIA has been tarnished with the image of heavy-handed ineptitude, which this latest farce has reinforced only too clearly.

And as if this is not enough, with a superb sense of timing, the organisation announced last week that it is to conduct an independent survey of attitudes towards its policies and licensing process. All responses will, apparently be anonymous. Well, mine won't.

You are not very good at what you do. You do not admit it when you make mistakes. You could take a long, hard look at yourselves. Some of you could resign.

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