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Assessing the Regulation of Private Security Across Europe

NCJ Number
European Journal of Criminology Volume: 4 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2007 Pages: 109-128
Mark Button
Date Published
January 2007
20 pages
This paper examines the emerging English system of legal control over the private security industry and compares some of its features with those of other European countries as well as North-American countries and Australia.
In 2001, after 30 years of campaigning for regulation of the private security industry in England and Wales, the Private Security Industry Act was finally passed. This legislation established a new nondepartmental public body called the Security Industry Authority (SIA). The SIA has a wide range of functions, but the most important relate to the licensing of individuals who operate in various sectors of the private security industry subject to regulation. The system of regulation of the private security industry in England and Wales, however, has fallen far short of that in other European countries. It is more reflective of the minimal governmental controls characteristic of the United States. One of the most significant weaknesses is the "approved contractors" scheme. It is voluntary, so in the cut-throat market of security there is opportunity for some firms to undercut others by avoiding the costly standards that approved contractors must meet. The failure to regulate in-house security guards is another significant omission of legislation and regulation. This means that a large number of security officers will not be required to have a license. Some European countries, notably Spain, have realized that high standards of regulation for private security, along with other initiatives, can forge a private security force that complements and enhances the public security infrastructure. In the face of the growing threat of terrorism and the many demands placed on public police, a well-trained and regulated private security industry can expand the scope and increase the quality of security for the public. 63 references