I am pleased to have the opportunity to bring the Private Security Services (Amendment) Bill 2021 before the Seanad. The principal objective of this Bill to insert a new category of enforcement guard in the list of private security services licensed by the Private Security Authority, PSA, under the 2004 Act. The definition and insertion of this additional category will address a gap in the legislation whereby those enforcing court orders are not currently subject to regulation or licensing by the PSA. This will ensure these services are properly regulated. The gap in the legislation was identified a number of years ago and was highlighted in September 2018 with the removal of persons trespassing and illegally occupying a private property on North Frederick Street. Those occupying the property were removed by a private security firm on foot of a High Court order. The personnel who attended at the property on behalf of the private security firm - and those who have done so in similar cases - are not currently subject to regulation or licensing by the PSA. The latter has necessitated this important legislative change. A small number of additional amendments have been included following consultation with the PSA.
Before turning to the main provisions of the Bill, I acknowledge Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire's Private Members' Bill, the Regulation of Private Security Firms Bill 2019, which contained similar objectives to the Private Security Services (Amendment) Bill 2021.
Section 1 of the Bill is a standard provision that includes a definition of the term "Principal Act". Section 2 is the key section. It inserts an additional category and definition of "enforcement guard" in the list of security services covered by the Private Security Services Act 2004. This section also inserts definitions of "county registrar", "court messenger" and "sheriff". The definition of an "enforcement guard" means a person other than a sheriff, county registrar or court messenger who, for remuneration, as part of his or her duties is authorised to perform any of the following functions: removing one or more persons from any premises or any other place, in order to take possession of the premises or place; controlling, supervising or restricting entry by one or more persons to any premises or any other place in order to take possession of that premises or place or seizing goods or other property in lieu of an outstanding debt, which said authorisation is conferred by or under an enactment, pursuant to a court order, in accordance with an agreement or consent, pursuant to a contract, or otherwise in accordance with law.
These are removing one or more persons from any premises or any other place in order to take possession of the premises or place; controlling, supervising or restricting entry by one or more persons to any premises or any other place in order to take possession of that premises or place; or seizing goods or other property in lieu of an outstanding debt, where authorisation is conferred by or under an enactment pursuant to a court order in accordance with an agreement or consent pursuant to a contract or otherwise in accordance with law.
The insertion of this category and definition will ensure an enforcement guard must hold a licence and it would be an offence to operate an enforcement guard without a private security authority licence. Such individuals would also be subject to the training standards and licensing regime operated by the authority. It would also be an offence to falsely represent oneself as an enforcement guard by advertisement or by displaying any objects purporting to indicate that the holder is a licensed enforcement guard. For both offences, a person may be liable for a class A fine or imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both, on summary conviction. A conviction on indictment can lead to imprisonment up to five years or the imposition of a fine.
Section 3 inserts a further exemption from licensing by the Private Security Authority for those engaged in the enforced collection of Revenue liabilities by a sheriff or county registrar. Where, in exceptional circumstances, there may be a need to engage security personnel, existing protocols have been updated in the Revenue Commissioners to include a requirement that such personnel are licensed by the PSA. Section 4 extends the provisions of section 26 of the Private Security Services Act 2004, allowing the PSA to refuse to renew a licence, or suspend or revoke a licence of a body corporate for the actions of its members. This will include the actions of directors, shareholders, managers, secretaries or other similar officers of the body corporate or any person purporting to act in that capacity.
Section 5 provides for the amendment of section 33(3) of the Private Security Services Act 2004 to make the register of licensed persons available for inspection free of charge by members of the public both at its principal office and online. Section 6 provides for the amendment of section 48(1) of the Private Security Services Act 2004 to include an offence of impersonating an inspector. Section 7 repeals a number of provisions under section 4(4) of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act 1926. Section 8 is a standard provision referring to the Short Title, commencement and collective citation.
I again stress the importance of this short amending Bill, which will ensure the strengthening of this area of the Private Security Authority's regulation ambit. I commend the Bill to the House.