Licences to curb violent bouncers

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BOUNCERS, CAR clampers and security guards with violent or criminal backgrounds are to be banned from the private security industry under Government plans announced yesterday.

Some 240,000 members of the booming private security sector will be forced to pay pounds 32 for a licence to operate as part of a move to clean up currently unregulated security firms amid evidence that they are hiring thugs, thieves and criminals. One in ten people who apply for a licence are expected to be rejected because they have serious criminal convictions.

A study into bouncers in Northumbria reveals that 25 of them had a total of 54 convictions for violence including murder and manslaughter. In another case the owner of a security company in Gwent was found to have used three different false names and to have 43 convictions. An estimated 2,600 offences are carried out by private security employees every year.

Under the new proposals it will become an offence to work without a licence, punishable by a maximum five year jail term.

The Home Office plans to regulate private and local authority street patrols, guards, including those who work at supermarkets and transport cash, bouncers, wheel clampers, dog handlers, and people who fit and monitor alarms and surveillance cameras. Other sectors, including private in- vestigators, security consultants and locksmiths are expected to come under the new regulations at a later date.

But the proposals contained in a government consultative White Paper fall short of full regulation and suggest a voluntary system of inspection for companies.

Paul Boateng, the Home Office minister, said yesterday that action was needed to prevent criminals working in the industry. He said that some "beefy doormen" were "little more than gangsters". Under the Home Office plans, which are unlikely to become law until next year, employees and company bosses will have to obtain a licence showing that they do not have a serious criminal record or have been declared bankrupt.

A new authority is to be set up to oversee the licences. An inspectorate will also be formed to carry out spot checks on firms and individuals. In addition, firms can volunteer to be inspected and can obtain a special certificate or badge to show it has reached a set standard.Mr Boateng denied that the "badges" would legitimise the security industry and pave the way for more private patrols.

The Home Office believes this method, rather than having compulsory inspections, will force up standards. It does, however, mean that shoddy and substandard companies can continue to operate.

The Home Office expects that 240,000 people will need licences. It assumes that half will have criminal records.