The Private Security Authority (PSA) has said that its ability to engage with licensees and undertake compliance activity last year was “severely hampered” by the pandemic.
In its annual report, the authority also said that it was “disappointed” that its proposals to support the security industry by reducing the licence fee, or extending the licence term, were not accepted.
The authority, set up under the Private Security Services Act 2004 and 2011, is charged with managing a licensing system for the private-security industry.
Writing in the report, chairman Noel Lappin and chief executive Paul Scallan acknowledged that some areas of its mandate would remain unfinished when its strategic plan came to an end next month.
Plans to extend licensing to employees in the event-security sector were put on hold after the lockdown in March last year. The number of sectors regulated by the body at the end of 2020 remained at 12 for contractors and four for employees.
The report shows that the PSA licensed just over 1,400 contractors last year – little changed from the 2019 figure. The number of individuals licensed, however, fell by almost 1,500 to just over 31,000.
There was a drop in the number of licences held by door supervisors at licensed premises, but the PSA noted that the pandemic had led to an increase in demand for security-guard services.
Fall in fee income
The authority took in just around €2.7 million from fees last year – down from €3.4 million in 2019. The body cited the cyclical nature of two- and three-year licences, as well as the pandemic, as factors in the fall.
It said that 93% of contractors who had been due to renew during 2020 did so, but added that an increasing number had missed payments under an instalment plan as the year went on.
The regulator revoked 31 licences in 2020, compared with 26 in 2019. It also refused 98 applications, compared with 60 the previous year.
The PSA had one prosecution, on foot of an investigation that found that an unlicensed security contractor was providing a security guarding service in Strokestown, Co Roscommon, in December 2018.
The company – GS Agencies Ltd of Portadown, Co Armagh – was fined €500 for each of six breaches of the Private Security Services Act, and costs of €7,500 were awarded against the company.
The report showed that some form of non-compliance was found in just over 70% of the 570 enforcement cases completed, but most were regarded as minor breaches, with no further action taken after they had been rectified. In 13% of the cases, however, some form of sanction was administered.
The Department of Justice also said today (26 October) that the minister was seeking expressions of interest from suitably qualified and experienced persons to fill four vacancies on the authority. The closing date for applications is 3pm on Wednesday, 10 November.