`Cowboy' security firms face round-up

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Indy Politics
"Cowboy" security firms and unscrupulous wheel clamping outfits could be outlawed under proposals being considered by the Government.

Measures under examination include a statutory licensing system for security guards, with penalties for firms that take on staff with criminal records.

However, any changes will not be introduced for at least another 18 months, despite Labour's pre-election pledges to introduce new laws immediately.

The decision to start a consultation process follows widespread concern about the standards and control of security firms, which now employ more guards than there are uniformed police officers.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, told the British Security Industry Association in London yesterday that the review would be extended to cover private wheelclampers.

"It is an extraordinary irony that an industry which attempts to regulate the behaviour of others is subject to no regulation itself," he said.

"The result is that ... cheats and villains are able to operate. These rogues undermine the fine reputation of the established companies who enforce effective standards and self-regulation."

He added that statutory regulation was "the best way to ensure proper standards, to protect the public and weed out the cowboys and the cheats who besmirch the industry's good name".

In 1995 the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee heard evidence from the police that up to 2,600 crimes a year were committed by guards. In one company 11 of the 26 staff had criminal convictions, ranging from rape to assault. In another case cited by the police, a security firm's managing director recommended an employee for a shotgun licence even though he knew the employee had been convicted of killing his wife.

Securicor, the security company, yesterday welcomed the announcement and called for an automatic bar on any individual with a record of dishonesty or criminality.