Regulation of Private Security Firms Bill 2019: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Private Security Services Act 2004 to regulate private security companies engaged in the enforcement of court orders including the repossession of properties and to provide for related matters.

Baineann an Bille seo le foirne slándála atá ag déileáil le evictions agus a leithéid. I am introducing this Bill because we are increasingly concerned at use of unregulated and unaccountable security firms by banks and other organisations to enforce court orders. It is extremely serious and we believe it requires legislative action.

We first raised this matter with the Minister in September, following the controversial Frederick Street protests and evictions in which private security firms were seen to be quite heavy handed, causing significant controversy. At the time, I contacted the Private Security Authority to complain about the conduct of those involved in that eviction and in the enforcement of a court order. It informed me that it had no responsibility for that. I was told that those who were undertaking repossessions are not covered by the Private Security Services Act.

It is a fact that a clear loophole exists in the Private Security Services Act 2004 and, obviously, that is of major concern. I raised this with the Minister at that time and I called on him to act or advised that we would bring forward legislation. To date, we have not seen any legislation or the heads of a Bill. Therefore, I am introducing this Bill.

The accounts provided from the recent eviction in Roscommon were appalling, with private security personnel being given apparent free reign to do as they wished to the people being evicted. It brought to mind scenes from our past of people being thrown out on to the side of the road. It is also a cause of concern that the Garda did not intervene to prevent this and, according to reports, it closed off the road to facilitate these actions by these bank enforcers. Clearly, there is a major anomaly and oversight in that people who are involved in the enforcement of court orders and evictions, and all that involves, are potentially unregulated.

Our Bill would amend section 2 of the Private Security Services Act 2004 by adding a new category of security personnel to come within the remit of the Act, and under the scope of the Private Security Authority. It reads: "persons involved in the execution and/or enforcement of Court orders including Orders for Repossession".

This Act generally involves the regulation and oversight of security staff. For example, sections 29 and 30 of the Act are explicit in stating that all operating with the sector must identify themselves clearly, and show ID to anyone who requests it. The authority also covers areas such as the ability to grant and renew licences; issue identity cards to licensees; where appropriate suspend or revoke licences; establish and maintain a register of licensees; specify standards to be observed in the provision of security services by licensees or particular categories of licensees; specify qualifications or any other requirements, including requirements as to training for the granting of licences; undertake or commission the compilation of statistical information and other records necessary for the proper planning, development and provision of those services; investigate any security services being provided by any person; establish and administer a system of investigation and adjudication of complaints against licensees; monitor the provision of private security services generally; liaise with licensees; and advise the Minister on any matter relating to its functions.

None of this currently applies to this area. There is no licensing, ability to revoke a licence, requirement for identification or any route for complaints. That situation is unacceptable. We expect door staff in our bars and people who are doing security in shops in our high street to be subject to regulation and high standards, yet people involved in the most intrusive, hard edged and indeed potentially violent security work are not subject to any regulation. It is incredible and unacceptable and this Bill seeks to resolve that. The lack of accountability is shocking and those who are forcing evictions and acting in a violent or abusive way must be held accountable, must be subject to regulation and must be capable of having a complaint made against them. Our Bill would rectify that. It would ensure that anyone involved in an eviction would be subject to standards, oversight, licensing and would carry identification. They could also be the subject of complaints. That is the bare minimum we can expect. The Bill will provide for that and I hope the Government will support it.

I am aware that there were recently threats against Government Ministers relating to evictions. I condemn that. It is unacceptable.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.