Panorama: Britain’s Protection Racket
Industry official blows the whistle on criminals operating in UK security industry
An official close to the top of the regulator of Britain’s £7billion security industry has told BBC One’s Panorama that the industry is being infiltrated and illegally run by criminals exploiting loop holes in the law.
In the programme – to be broadcast tonight (Monday 21 January) at 8.30pm on BBC One – the high ranking Security Industry Authority (SIA) official told Panorama of his frustration with the SIA and its inability to deal with criminal and rogue security firms because of weak legislation.
The SIA was designed to remove criminality from the security industry – legislating that owners of security firms must be properly vetted. However Panorama reveals convicted criminals who simply call themselves “security consultants” are free to operate.
Panorama’s whistleblower told the programme: “… it is no surprise to find that some of the worst people in the industry are conveniently now calling themselves security consultants to circumvent the whole reason for the legislation in the first place.”
“… you do realise how ineffective you are being. People within the industry know full well what is happening and wonder aloud sometimes why is it that the SIA has not shown itself to be capable of tackling some of these areas of concern head on.”
The programme shows former gangster Lewis Rodden acting as a consultant after being released from jail for waging a campaign of terror against rival security firms.
And Panorama reveals evidence of a convicted drug-trafficker not only acting as a consultant for a major security company but running it.
Robert Wright was convicted of masterminding a drug-smuggling operation in Estonia.
Panorama’s undercover reporter Samantha Poling found Wright claiming to be a “security consultant” for a Yorkshire company called Feba Custodia. In fact secret filming reveals him boasting that he actually runs the group which he says spans city centres, motorways, supermarkets, colleges and toy stores across the country.
Feba Custodia was recently awarded approved contractor status – enabling it to be able to bid for the biggest contracts in the country.
Showing Poling around the bomb-proof company headquarters, Wright claimed his clients include Walmart, Disney and Sheffield Police’s CCTV liaison unit. Crucially he appeared to be actually running operations – not just consulting – employing and managing around 1,200 staff.
The SIA whistleblower told Panorama he could not understand how such an individual is allowed to operate: “It begs the question how has he been able to obtain a licence, how has he been able to run a company, how has that company achieved that status? Each of those three elements goes to the heart of what the legislation was about and what the legislation was intended to prevent happening.”
Walmart, Asda, Disney, and South Yorkshire Police all denied directly employing Feba Custodia. But in an industry where sub-contracting is common, they might be indirectly employing this man, without knowing it.
Panorama: Britain’s Protection Racket also reveals how mandatory training and exams – training for bouncers and doormen and hospital security guards working with the public every day – supposedly overseen by the SIA are badly run.
A second Panorama undercover reporter sat the SIA training course run by Upfront Security, one of the UK’s biggest security providers and uncovered evidence of both training and exam malpractice.
Reporter Richard was supposed to go through 28 hours of training but was given less than 12 and one of his fellow candidates was left to fall asleep during training. And when it came to the exam he and the other candidates were left unattended with course notes to copy from.
Richard says: “I did ask her whether I could keep them on the desk for the exam. She said ‘no’ but I kept it on the desk anyway, and no-one seemed to do anything about it, because she wasn’t in the room when I started copying from it.”
Upfront admitted they had encountered problems but claim to have now completely overhauled their practices.
Panorama: Britain’s Protection Racket will be broadcast on Monday 21 January 2008 at 8.30pm on BBC One