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Cosgrove speech for New Zealand Security Conf.

Cosgrove speech for New Zealand Security Conference 2008

Venue: SkyCity Auckland Convention Centre
Time: 1.30pm, 25 June 2008

Good afternoon. I would like to thank the New Zealand Security Association (NZSA) for the invitation to speak here today.

I would like to thank, in particular, Peter Freeman, the Chair of the NZSA, and successive past Chairs of the NZSA who have been instrumental in urging that there be major reforms to the existing security industry legislation, in particular Ian Dick, Bruce Cooper and more recently Scott Carter – as well as Barrie Cooper, the long-term NZSA executive director.

I would also like to acknowledge Baroness Henig, the Chairperson of the Security Industry Authority in the United Kingdom, who will be speaking here shortly.

Firstly, I want to update you on where we are at with the security industry reforms.

In December 2006, I announced a review of the legislation governing the security industry. Since then, my Justice officials have finalised proposals and consulted with the industry, other interest groups, and relevant government departments. Many of you here present provided feedback during this consultation process.

The results of the consultation were taken into account, recommendations were made to me, and now Cabinet decisions have been made. I am here today to talk about those decisions.

A Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill is expected to be ready for introduction into Parliament within the next few months. This will replace the existing Private Investigators and Security Guards Act 1974. The new Bill represents a major overhaul of the legislation governing the security industry, and it will significantly raise professional standards in the industry.

At this point I would particularly like to pay tribute to the work of New Zealand First Law and Order spokesperson, Ron Mark. We have a great deal to thank Ron Mark for, both for his work in promoting industry reform and for his efforts to improve the Bill. Ron Mark has extensive knowledge of your industry and has assisted me and my officials in developing the Bill. I understand that Mr Mark will be joining you all tomorrow, and I know that he will make a valuable contribution to the conference.

Why is the new Bill necessary?

The Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill reflects the changing role, and the changing expectations, of the security industry in New Zealand today. It recognises that private security personnel perform a valuable and responsible role in the community. It also recognises that the risks associated with their work need to be addressed.

This Bill will repeal and replace the existing Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, which has governed the security industry since 1974. The existing Act has been largely unchanged since its passage, but in recent years there has been growing dissatisfaction with it.

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.

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.

Key points

The main areas of reform fall into three categories.

First, licensing requirements will cover a wider range of security-related activities – in particular, “crowd controllers,” which include “bouncers”. These are dedicated security staff who are employed specifically to screen entry, to keep order among groups of people, and remove people from premises – particularly on licensed premises. The licensing regime will also be extended to cover bodyguards offering services for hire and private security staff guarding people in legal custody.

All those currently required to be licensed will continue to be required to be licensed.

Secondly, private security staff will be required to undertake training if their job is guarding property, guarding persons, or keeping order among groups of people. This is not a requirement under the existing security industry legislation. The Bill proposes that training be required if the nature of the work is such that there is a substantial risk of physical violence occurring.

Proper training is important for private security staff who have to deal with potentially violent situations, for their own safety and the safety of the public. Extending the licensing requirements and introducing mandatory training for private security staff will also bring New Zealand into line with the United Kingdom and Australia.

A third major reform will be the establishment of a dedicated enforcement body, the Complaints, Investigation and Prosecution Unit. The Bill will also contain tougher penalties for breaches of the new Act, particularly for unlicensed people working in an area where they are required to be licensed.

The penalty for unlawfully employing an unlicensed security employee will go up, from the existing $2,000, to 20,000. The penalty for unlawfully operating an unlicensed business will go up, from the existing $2,000, to $40,000 for an individual and $60,000 for a company.

The Bill will set up a dedicated enforcement unit, funded from licensing revenue, to enforce the new security industry legislation. Increasing penalties for offending will also provide a more effective deterrent for those people who do continue to break the law.

The Police will retain the power to prosecute for breaches of the Act.

There will, of course, be costs associated with all this, and the intention is that the new licensing regime, and the enforcement unit, will be financed from licensing revenue. However, every effort is being made to keep costs to the private sector down. To help achieve this, relicensing will only be required every five years, rather than every year, as at present. A number of things have not changed. In particular, 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.

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 privacy 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.

I should also emphasise that, 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 many people will be affected by the new legislation? The changes that I am announcing today are expected to nearly double the number of people who are expected to be licensed to perform private security roles, to approximately 18,000 people.

I will now go through some of the details, as they relate to licensing and training.

Licensing and training

Who is responsible for running the licensing regime?

It is important that people wanting to do security work are adequately assessed for their suitability, including checks being made to ensure that they have not engaged in serious criminal offending. That is something that only an effective system of licensing can achieve.

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. This will replace the current Registrar of Private Investigators and Security Guards.

Mindful of the need to keep costs down, 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 Auckland District Court at present.

Different categories of licence and certificate

Under the existing Act, employers are required to hold a licence if they are running businesses offering a range of security-related services. Similarly, their employees that perform this work are required to hold a certificate of approval.

Currently, the licensing requirements cover businesses and their staff if they offer services in security consultancy work, installing or repair burglar alarms and other security-related equipment, installing locks for safes or strong-rooms, monitoring security devices, guarding property, or doing private investigation work.

Even in these areas, the existing legislation contains ambiguity and leaves possible loopholes. These ambiguities have been removed and loopholes closed by the Bill. For example, under the Bill there will be no doubt that businesses offering confidential document destruction services will be covered by the licensing requirements, as will those responding to security call-outs.

In addition, licensing is being extended to cover businesses that offer bodyguard services and services where they are employed to guard people in lawful custody. This though, will only affect a few hundred people at most.

The biggest change by far is the licensing of the so-called “crowd controllers”, people who are employed specifically to screen entry to a place, keep order in a place, or remove people from a place. Under the proposals, licensing will not only cover businesses offering these services and their responsible employees. It will also cover in-house crowd controllers, such as where a bar directly employs its own bouncers. These changes will affect several thousand people who are not currently required to be licensed.

So why are we extending coverage to include crowd controllers? Crowd controllers – as the term suggests – are required to control crowds of people, often at sporting events and in bars, where alcohol is being consumed. Most of the crowd will normally be law-biding people, but a few may play up and require attention from crowd controller security staff. In the worse situations, staff have to deal with violent and dangerous offenders, often out of control on drugs or alcohol. It’s not an easy job.

In this sense, the work performed by crowd controllers is similar to that of the police. They may be required to defuse a volatile situation or restrain patrons and safely remove them from the premises. The problem is, as we have seen reported in the media on a number of occasions, sometimes interactions between crowd controllers and the public end in tragedy. I am sure you are all aware of the case in Blenheim of two bouncers who were charged with manslaughter (and cleared) after the death of a man outside a bar.

Over the last few years our major newspapers have reported on a number of cases involving crowd controllers – the headlines read, for example, “Man claims attack by bar bouncer” (The Christchurch Press), “Bouncer in murder case admits going ‘overboard’” (The Dominion Post), “Workmate comments on assault by bouncer” ( the Taranaki Daily News), “Bouncer hit for assault on policeman” (The Southland Times), “Bouncer jailed after three assault charges” (The Timaru Herald). The new legislation should see such incidents largely become a thing of the past.

Both crowd controllers and the public alike need to be protected from out-of-control situations. The new legislation will, for the first time in New Zealand, require those performing crowd control services to be appropriately trained and licensed.

While violence is always to be avoided, crowd controllers often have to deal with drunks and other situations that could escalate quickly, and the training would help them not to go over the top and to know what to do in these situations, as well protect themselves. Licensing will also ensure that only “fit and proper” people – without convictions involving drug dealing or violence – enter the industry.

In regard to crowd controllers, I would like to clarify that neither duty managers in bars, nor ordinary bar staff will need to be licensed. It is only the dedicated security staff, in particular crowd controllers, which this legislation is aimed at, not people who may perform some crowd control duties as only an incidental part of their work.

Classes of licence and certificate

There will be seven kinds of licence and certificates of approval for different kinds of work:

private investigator; security technician; security consultant; confidential document destruction agent; property guard (includes people monitoring burglar alarms and the like); personal guard (covers bodyguards and guarding people in custody); and crowd controller.

There will be a certain amount of flexibility within the overall licensing scheme and, in particular, there will be scope for the Licensing Authority to issue licences and certificates with conditions attached. This could prove particularly useful for some staff with a disability who may be able to perform some, but not all, of the work within a class.

By regulation it will also be possible to specify particular circumstances, usually subject to conditions, in which some security staff do not need a certificate, even though they perform work that would normally require one. The Bill specifically states that regulations of this type may be made covering employees performing crowd control work at events. It is not intended that employees will need to be licensed if they only perform duties that involve a low risk of physical confrontation, even if their duties are event-security related.

Licensing

As I mentioned earlier, currently there are no formal training requirements as a condition of being licensed under the Act. The Bill will make it possible to, by regulation, make training mandatory for any class or category of person required to be licensed under the new legislation. Initially it will only be property guards, personal guards and crowd controllers who will be required to be licensed. Other classes may be brought in later.

The detailed training requirements will be developed in consultation with the hospitality and security industries, as well as industry training bodies. Training is expected to significantly improve safety levels for security staff themselves, and for those they come into contact with.

The security industry as well as the Electrotechnology Industry Training Organisation (ETITO), the Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ) and the Hospitality Standards Institute will be heavily involved when it comes to determining the training requirements for crowd controllers. It is important though, that training addresses how to safely restrain someone, as well as techniques to diffuse difficult situations and to stop violence occurring.

A new review

Finally, I just want to say a little more about private investigators. The New Zealand Institute of Professional Investigators, among others, will shortly be contacted by Ministry of Justice officials about a new review that will be undertaken looking at provisions of the legislation as it applies to the activities of private investigators and their staff.

Previous reviews have focussed on audio and visual recording, but this review will be somewhat wider. Among other things it will look at when PIs, and employees of PIs, can observe and question people without needing to say who they are, and when they will need to identify themselves.

Other aspects of the review will 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. It will also look again at covert recording by PI’s. This review will be completed by the end of the current year.

This review will be conducted by the Ministry of Justice in consultation with the Law Commission and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, among others.

As I noted earlier, it is recognised that private investigators perform a relevant role, particularly in investigating possible offending, including fraud. But there also needs to be a balance against abuses by individual private investigators. Covert photography and audio-recording is not the only area where that balance needs to be found.

Conclusion

The passage of the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill will raise standards in the private security industry in New Zealand, to the direct benefit of all good businesses and employees.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the industry for its support and involvement in the review process leading up to the forthcoming Bill, and I urge you to remain involved in its development when it goes through the select committee process.

The private security industry plays a vital role in keeping New Zealanders safe and secure in their homes, their workplaces and in public areas. I welcome the opportunity to advance this legislation that seeks to further professionalise this important sector.

ENDS


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