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Bill to overhaul New Zealand’s security industry

25 June 2008

Bill to overhaul New Zealand’s security industry

Associate Justice Minister Clayton Cosgrove has today announced the government’s decisions over how it will overhaul the legislation governing the security industry. These decisions will be drafted into the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill, which is expected to be ready to be introduced into Parliament within the next few months.

Speaking at the New Zealand Security Conference in Auckland today, Mr Cosgrove said that the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act has been largely unchanged since its passage in 1974, but is now outdated and major reforms are needed.

Currently, businesses and their staff are required to be licensed if they offer services in security consultancy work, installing or repairing burglar alarms and other security-related equipment, installing locks for safes, monitoring security devices, or guarding property, or doing private investigation work.

However Mr Cosgrove said the current system has some serious gaps, and standards among private security businesses and staff vary widely.

“Private security personnel perform a valuable and responsible role in the community but the risks associated with their work need to be addressed. We need to ensure we have appropriate people working in this sector who are properly trained – for instance to deal with potentially violent situations - for their own protection and for the safety of the public.”

Mr Cosgrove outlined the main areas of reform, which are as follows:

 Licensing requirements (including police checks for criminal convictions) will be extended to cover a wider range of security-related activities – in particular, crowd controllers including bouncers; bodyguards; and private security staff guarding people in legal custody.
 Private security staff will be required – for the first time in New Zealand – to undertake training if their job is guarding property, guarding persons, or keeping order among groups of people. Essentially, training will be required if the nature of the work is such that there is a significant risk of physical violence occurring.
 A dedicated enforcement body - the Complaints, Investigation and Prosecution Unit - will be created to ensure compliance with the new legislation, and there will be tougher penalties for offending.

“It is important that people performing security work are adequately assessed for their suitability, including police checks being made to ensure that they have not engaged in serious criminal offending - and that is something that only an effective system of licensing can achieve,” Mr Cosgrove said.

Mr Cosgrove said extending the licensing requirements and introducing mandatory training for private security staff will bring New Zealand into line with the United Kingdom and Australia.

A dedicated enforcement unit will be established, funded from licensing revenue, to help enforce the new security industry legislation. Penalties for offending will also be increased to provide a more effective deterrent to unlicensed operators.

Mr Cosgrove said that the requirement in the existing legislation that private investigators not photograph or record people without their written consent will remain in place, to safeguard the right to privacy. “There needs to be balance between a person’s right to privacy and allowing private investigators to carry out their work, which can include investigating fraud and other criminal cases,” said Mr Cosgrove.

However the government has also ordered a further broader review into occupational regulation as it affects private investigators. ”This review is necessary because the previous work was too narrowly focussed on covert photography and recording, but there are other issues involving private investigators that also need to be looked at. These include what steps private investigators need to take to avoid any information they gather being used for inappropriate purposes, such as blackmail or the intimidation of witnesses,” said Mr Cosgrove. This review will be completed by the end of the current year.

It is estimated that around 18,000 people will need to be licensed under the new legislation, nearly double the number licensed under the existing Act.

Mr Cosgrove said that every effort was being made to keep costs to the private sector down, and that, to help achieve this, re-licensing will only be required every five years, rather than every year, as at present.

New Zealand First Law and Order spokesperson, Ron Mark, has welcomed the Bill, saying it would provide the necessary checks and balances on the industry, which had been broadening the scope of its responsibilities in recent years.

"It is pleasing to see the government taking action on the concerns I have raised regarding the security industry, in particular the problem of having unlicensed businesses and individuals performing security work. The risk of having inappropriate and unqualified people carrying out this type of work is too great," he said. "Tighter controls will address safety concerns and raise public confidence in the industry."

Mr Cosgrove thanked Ron Mark for his support for the reform of the security industry and for his valuable input into the development of the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill.

Mr Cosgrove said the proposed reforms will further professionalise the security industry in New Zealand and will minimise the risks to the public who use, or interact with, security personnel.

Background Information

Why does the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act 1974 need to be updated?

Private Investigators and Security Guards Act is outdated and does not reflect the changing role, and the changing expectations, of the security industry in New Zealand today. Private security personnel perform a valuable and responsible role in the community but the risks associated with their work need to be addressed.
Standards of practice and conduct among private security businesses and staff vary widely, and this poses risks to their clients, the public and themselves. These risks are to the physical safety of people, to the security of property and - in the case of private investigators – to the right to privacy.

Improvements are needed to ensure that security staff who are not currently required to be licensed are covered. This includes crowd controllers (including ‘bouncers’), bodyguards and private security staff guarding people in legal custody. This will mean that they have to undergo police checks, in particular to determine if they have convictions, and will not be able to work in the industry if they fail those checks.
The current Act also does not require mandatory training for security staff. Without proper training, staff may be exposed to potentially violent situations for instance, which they lack the skills to deal with safely and appropriately.
Better enforcement and heavier penalties are also needed to deter offending, including the problem of businesses and staff operating in the industry without being licensed when they legally should be.

What are the key changes recommended in the Bill?
There are three key changes:
 Licensing requirements (including police checks for criminal convictions) will be extended to cover a wider range of security-related activities – in particular, crowd controllers including bouncers, bodyguards, and private security staff guarding people in legal custody.
 Private security staff will be required – for the first time in New Zealand – to undertake training if their job is guarding property, guarding persons, or keeping order among groups of people. Essentially, training will be required if the nature of the work is such that there is a significant risk of physical violence occurring.
 A dedicated enforcement body - the Complaints, Investigation and Prosecution Unit - will be created to ensure compliance with the new legislation, and there will be heavier penalties for offending.

The proposed move to five-yearly licensing, rather than the annual licensing in place now, will be welcomed by the industry. As with the existing Act, the new legislation will not give licence and certificate holders any powers that are not possessed by an ordinary citizen.

How much will penalties go up?
At present, the maximum financial penalty for someone convicted of unlawfully running a security business without a licence is $2,000. The maximum penalty will go up to $40,000 for an individual and $60,000 for a company.
At present, the maximum financial penalty for a business convicted of unlawfully employing a security staff member without a certificate of approval is $2,000. The maximum penalty will go up to $20,000.

How will this Bill benefit the New Zealand public and the sector?
Improving the way the security industry and individual security staff operate will make people and their property safer. The new requirements will ensure inappropriate people do not work in this sector – in particular, people with certain criminal convictions.
The reforms will raise public confidence in the sector, and good security operators will benefit as a result. Security staff will be safer because they will be able to better cope with emergency situations, particularly those involving violence or the threat of violence.

How will licensing be organised?
Licensing and disciplinary issues will continue to be the responsibility of a one-person Licensing Authority appointed by the government. The new authority will be called the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Licensing Authority. It will replace the current Registrar of Private Investigators and Security Guards.
The new Licensing Authority will not need to hire its own administrative staff as it will be supported by Ministry of Justice staff, as is the case with the current model. However the new authority will receive support from Justice’s Special Jurisdictions Branch which specialises in this area of tribunals’ work, as opposed to the more general assistance provided by the Auckland District Court at present.

How will the ongoing mandatory training requirements be run?
People will be obliged to complete any mandatory training before they are issued with a full certificate of approval or a licence. After an initial Police check for convictions is undertaken, but before the full objections process and training are completed, applicants can be issued with a temporary certificate of approval, valid for three months.
The training requirements have yet to be finalised, and will be set by regulation. The curricula will be worked out by way of a consultative process involving the security and hospitality industries and also industry training organisations. There are already courses offered to security staff that are not mandatory, and it will largely be a matter of selecting from, and building on, these courses.
Training is expected to significantly improve safety levels for security staff themselves, and for those they come into contact with. It is important that training addresses how to safely restrain someone, as well as techniques to diffuse difficult situations and to stop violence occurring.

How much will these reforms cost?
The new licensing regime, and the enforcement unit, will be financed from licensing revenue. Final costings haven’t been determined however every effort is being made to keep costs to the private sector down. To help achieve this, re-licensing will only be required every five years, rather than every year, as at present.

Will "in-house" security staff need to be licensed?
No, if staff are employed directly by a business to perform security work then they will not need to be licensed. However, if they are employed by an outside security firm that the business contracts, then both the security firm and the employee doing the work will need to be licensed.
Only in the case of "crowd controllers" will "in-house" security staff be required to be licensed. Crowd controllers are people employed primarily to screen entry to a place (other than just checking tickets or passes or ensuring an entry fee is paid), keep order in a place, or remove people from a place, and the risks associated with their work are high. They are mostly employed by places where liquor is sold and consumed.

Will this mean that people will have to hire bouncers for private parties?
No. There is nothing in the Act specifying when people have to hire crowd controllers. If, however, someone is being paid to specifically act as a bouncer then they will fall within the licensing requirements of the new legislation.

Why are the rules for Private Investigators not changing in this Bill?
Private investigators will continue to be prohibited from photographing and audio-recording people without their consent (except for the purposes of identifying any person on whom legal process has been served or is to be served).
It is recognised that private investigators perform a relevant role, particularly in investigating possible offending, including fraud, but there needs to be a balance against potential abuses by private investigators. A number of high-profile cases over the past few years involving dubious activities by private investigators have, unfortunately, reinforced the need for safeguards.
The work done to date has focussed on the covert photography and recording issue. There are other issues involving private investigators which also need to be looked at, notably:
 what steps private investigators need to take to ensure that any information they gather is not used in an illegal manner (eg: for witness intimidation or the intimidation of any other person); and
 the range of methods private investigators use to gather information.

A review has now commenced which looks at the work of private investigators generally and how this can be best regulated. It is to be completed by the end of this current year.

ENDS

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