Security industry

Aim of this page

If you work in one of the following roles in the UK, then you will probably need an SIA licence:

  • Door Supervision
  • Security Guarding
  • Close Protection
  • CCTV
  • Cash and valuables in transit

This page provides information on the ways in which a criminal record may affect any new or existing licences.

It forms part of our section on looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering.

Why is this important?

Undertaking training courses and applying for an SIA licence can be time consuming and costly. It’s important therefore to find out whether the SIA are likely to grant you a licence before you invest too much time and money in the process.

The SIA

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is the organisation responsible for regulating the private security industry. They are an independent body that reports to the Home Secretary under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. The SIA has 2 main duties:

  • Compulsory licensing of individuals working in specific sectors of the private security industry
  • To manage the Approved Contractor Scheme. This measures private security companies against a set of independently assessed criteria.

How to apply for a licence

Before applying for a licence, either a new one or a renewal, you should look to see whether the SIA will require mitigation from you due to your criminal record (see below) as you may want to get this prepared in advance of any application, so that when you are asked for it you are ready to respond with the relevant information.

New Licence

You can apply for a licence by completing an application form here.

You should allow for the time it will take to complete any training you need, sit any examinations and get your qualification. You must have the relevant qualification before applying for a licence.

The SIA aim to process a minimum of 80% of all correctly completed applications within 25 working days. Complex applications, e.g. applications subject to additional criminality or qualification enquiries and those requiring overseas criminality checks, may take longer.

Renewals

If you already hold an SIA licence then you will need to apply for a new one before your current one expires. Your licence renewal application can be made up to 4 months before your existing licence expires. For more information and an online application form click here.

How much will the licence cost?

The fee for processing the licence is currently £220 for all applications including renewal of licences. The licence fee is non-refundable whether you are successful or not successful in obtaining a licence.

Assessing criminal records

The SIA carry out a standard criminal record check on any individual who applies for a licence. If you do have a criminal record, it does not necessarily mean that you will not get a licence. The SIA have a very detailed guide to how they handle applications from people with a criminal record in their Get Licensed handbook.

However, if you do have any convictions, warnings, cautions, absolute/conditional discharges, admonishments or charges awaiting trial for offences, then you will have to disclose them as part of your application (this includes convictions that are spent, as the SIA is exempt from the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

The SIA will make their decision according to:

  • Whether the offences are included in the list of offences.
  • The classification of seriousness of the offences.
  • The actual sentence or disposal given to you for the offence
  • How recent the offences were. This is measured against the date that the SIA make the decision to grant or refuse your licence and not the date you originally submitted your application.

Using the Criminal Record Indicator tool

The SIA have a useful tool on their website, the Criminal Record Indicator. This tool can only give you an indication of whether or not you meeting the criminal criteria set by the SIA in order to get a licence.

Free of sentence restrictions

Under the rules of the SIA, you will automatically be rejected for a licence unless you have been free of the sentence restrictions for a conviction for at least 12 months (and up to 5 years in more serious cases) before your licence application. Explanations of how the SIA start to count the ‘free of sentence restrictions’ for sentences, fines and disposals are as follows:

  • Imprisonment: If you have a conviction which resulted in a custodial sentence, the SIA will begin counting the ‘free of sentence restrictions’ time from the end of your sentence and not from the date when you were sentenced or when the offence(s) were committed. For example, if you have been convicted of an offence and spent time in custody, the date for deciding whether the offence is still relevant for licensing purposes is the day after the sentence would have ended. If you were released early, the SIA will still not begin counting you as being ‘free of sentence restrictions’ until the date when the sentence restrictions would have ended had the full term been served.
  • Suspended sentences: If you received a suspended sentence then you will be deemed ‘free of sentence restrictions’ from the end of the sentence period and not the period of suspension. For example, if you received a 6-month sentence suspended for 2 years then the SIA would consider you ‘free from sentence restrictions’ after 6 months from the date of conviction and not after the 2 year suspension.
  • Community orders: If you received a community order or other similar sentences undertaken in the community then you will be deemed ‘free of sentence restrictions’ at the end of the period of the order. However, if no date is given on the CRB check the SIA will deem you ‘free from sentence restrictions’ 12 months after the date of sentence.
  • Fines and other disposals: If you received a fine, caution, warnings, absolute/conditional discharges or admonishments the SIA will deem you ‘free from sentence restrictions’ from the day after the sentence or disposal was imposed.

Assessing your criminality

The SIA will establish any “relevant” offences. When considering the circumstances of your case the SIA will give you credit if you do not have a pattern of offending.

Assessment of seriousness

The SIA assess both whether the offence is relevant to the work of a security operative and the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SAG) guide: Overarching Principles Seriousness.

There are 3 categories for the offences; Serious, Significant and Either Way. For most of the offences, the SIA have set their ‘threshold’ for Serious as any offence which could attract a maximum custodial sentence of 4 years or more. In some cases they have classified offences as serious even if they do not meet this threshold, if they are particularly relevant to the security industry, for example, offences involving violence or dishonesty.

The way the SIA treat your offence depends on both the classification of your offence and on the actual sentence or disposal given to you for each offence/conviction.

  • Serious offences are those that could attract a maximum custodial sentence of 4 years or more.
  • Significant offences are those that could attract a maximum custodial sentence of less than 4 years.
  • Either-Way offences are those that have been identified through legislation as being offences with a wider scope of severity than most other offences, and can therefore be dealt with summarily at a lower court or on indictment at a higher court.

Sentences and disposals

The initial classification of your offence is important as it will affect the time you need to be free of sentence restrictions. However, the actual sentence/disposal you received is more important as it directly determines the intrinsic seriousness of your conduct as judged by the sentencing court and it is this sentence/disposal that the SIA will to assess your likelihood of being granted a licence.

Cautions, warnings, conditional/absolute discharges and admonishments

The SIA will consider cautions, warnings, conditional/absolute discharges and admonishments differently from convictions when making decisions about your eligibility for a licence. These are dealt with as follows:

  • All cautions, warnings absolute/conditional discharges and admonishments that are 5 years and older will be disregarded
  • A single caution, warning, absolute/conditional discharge or admonishment will be considered more leniently than other convictions if you have an otherwise clean record, as this does not indicate a pattern of criminality and could be considered out of character
  • The greater the number of cautions, warnings absolute/conditional discharges and admonishments on your record the more likely the SIA will refuse your licence
  • SIA will disregard a single caution, warning, absolute/conditional discharge or admonishment for a Significant offence over 2 years old on an otherwise clean record
  • SIA will disregard any caution, warning, absolute/conditional discharge or admonishment for a Serious offence over 5 years old

The Decision Making Process

7.1 Automatic Refusal

There are a number of situations where the SIA will automatically refuse your application for a licence. They are;

  • If you have a combination of 3 or more convictions for Significant or Serious offences, where the relevant date for any Significant offences is within the past 5 years and for any Serious offences is within the past 10 years, where the disposal for each individual offence would have required the consideration of additional factors.
  • If you have a combination of 2 or more convictions, cautions or warning for either Significant or Serious offences where the relevant date for any Significant offences is within the past 2 years and for any Serious offences is within the past 5 years.
  • If you have any convictions, warnings, cautions, absolute/conditional discharges or admonishments where the relevant date for any Significant offence is in the past 2 years or for any Serious offence in the past 5 years, and your criminal record includes any other relevant Significant conviction which resulted in a custodial sentence where the sentence restrictions ended in the 5 years before your application.
  • If you have any convictions, cautions, warnings, absolute/conditional discharges or admonishments where the relevant date for any Significant offence is in the past 2 years or for a Serious offence within the past 5 years, and your criminal record includes any other relevant Serious conviction which resulted in a custodial sentence where the sentence restrictions ended in the 10 years before your application.

Where the SIA judge you to be an automatic refusal you will only be invited to advise them of any factual errors in their assessment, e.g. an error of identity or an error in assessing your criminal history. The SIA will not consider any type of mitigation or character references on any automatic refusal cases.

‘Consider Additional Factors’

If your criminal record is such that the SIA feel that they need to ‘Consider Additional Factors (CAF) then they will write to you to invite you to submit mitigation which may include evidence of other influencing factors, and character references.

Submitting Mitigation

The mitigation that you submit may include you providing:

  • evidence of other influencing factors
  • character references
  • evidence of your rehabilitation since your offence.

There will be a deadline date, usually 21 days from the date of the letter notifying you of being able to submit mitigation, for you to provide this information to the SIA. Any letters provided from you which do not comply with these requirements may not be considered.

The number of documents you supply in support of your application will not necessarily add weight to your case; it is the nature and content of the mitigation which is considered. If you do not feel that you can get this information to the SIA by the given date then it is important that you write to them to ask for more time at the earliest opportunity.

Character references

The SIA will give more credence to your references if they are from independent, verifiable and objectives sources that have no vested interest in the licensing decision. For example, information from previous employers or other people of standing in the community such as your doctor, police officer, MP/Councillor or church leader. Any character references provided must clearly state the capacity in which they know you, how long they have known you, and confirm that they know about the relevant offence and that they are still prepared to give the reference. If possible, the reference should show their understanding or why you committed the offences and what you have done since. All references should be signed and dated and include full contact details (including a telephone number) for the referee.

Evidence of rehabilitation

The SIA will look favourably on applicants who have provided evidence of their rehabilitation. For example, if you served a custodial sentence you could include details of courses that you did which relate to your offence (including certificates if possible). You should also detail any voluntary work or community projects that you have been involved in either whilst in prison or since receiving your sentence/disposal which shows you are making a positive change towards a crime free life. The SIA do not want to re-hear all about your offence but more about how you have realised your errors and have tried to put practices in place to ensure that the same thing does not happen again.

The SIA will then assess this mitigation and will:

  • Look at the total record of all Serious offences. A criminal record showing that there has been a pattern of serious offending over a number of years will be treated more seriously than a single episode of offending.
  • Look at the total record of all Significant offences in the five-year period before your application. A criminal record showing that there has been a pattern of other significant offences over a number of years will be treated more seriously than a single episode of offending.
  • For the most recent offence, look at whether you have received a warning, caution, absolute/ conditional discharge or admonishment, or (where there has been a conviction), look at the nature of the sentence and the length of time from when the sentence ended beyond the minimum requirement.

They will then assess your mitigation with respect to the implications for public protection from crime and the fear of crime.

The decision

Grant

If your application for a licence is successful, you will receive a letter from the SIA informing you of their decision, and enclosing your licence.

Factual Errors

If the SIA judge it necessary to refuse your licence application then they will write to you notifying you of their intention to refuse a licence, and also providing you with the basis for their decision and they may invite you to supply them with further information. This is not asking for mitigation at this stage, but the SIA are giving you the opportunity to look at the factual information that they have about you and to see if there are any errors. An error could mean the difference between an automatic refusal or consider additional factors, which gives you the chance then to provide mitigation. Factual errors may include:

  • An error in identity
  • An error in assessing your criminality
  • Proof of remand time which impacts on recency sufficiently to change the decision from an automatic refusal to a Consider Additional Factors (CAF) or from a CAF to Grant decision
  • Proof that a Community Order was discharged early and which impacts on recency sufficiently to change the decision from an automatic refusal to a Consider Additional Factors (CAF) or from CAF to a Grant decision

You will have 21 days, from the date on the SIA’s letter and not the date you receive it, in order to provide a response. If a response is not received by the SIA from you within 21 days then your licence will be refused. If you do send a response within 21 days, the SIA will give it due consideration and will then write to you informing you of their final decision

Notification of a refusal

If the final decision by the SIA is still to refuse your licence, then you will have 21 days from the final decision letter in which to exercise a right of appeal to a Magistrate’s, Sheriff Court or District Court. There may be costs involved with an appeal to court, both in lodging an appeal and if you lose the appeal at court for which you would have to bear these. Currently the cost of lodging the appeal is £200, however if you receive you receive one of the following 5 means tested benefits then there will be no cost:

  • Income Support
  • Employment supported job seekers allowance
  • Pension allowance
  • Working tax credit which does not include child tax credit
  • Employment & support allowance

However, if you lose your appeal then the SIA may ask that their costs are paid by yourself. There are no set documents, form or procedure for lodging an appeal. Therefore it is advisable to contact the Magistrates Court where you wish to lodge your appeal to see what their process is.

If you are considering appealing to a Magistrates Court, you should try and seek legal advice.

If taking this action, it is advisable to look at the case of SIA v Stewart & Others (2007) in the High Court, where it was ruled that magistrate’s courts must follow the criteria set out in the SIA ‘Get Licensed’ booklet when considering appeals. For example, magistrate’s courts considering decisions the SIA have made as a result of their criminality criteria cannot consider factors outside of those criteria, such as the circumstances or gravity of the offence(s) committed.

Once a final decision is made the SIA has no power to revisit the decision, no matter how good the mitigation or obvious factual error, without the direction of a Court.

If you already hold a licence

If you already hold a current licence issued by the SIA there may be instances when the SIA deem it necessary to either take this away from you permanently or temporarily suspend it.

Revoking a licence

The SIA will revoke your licence if:

  • You are not the person to whom the licence has been issued
  • You received a conviction, caution, warning, conditional/absolute discharge or admonishment for a relevant offence
  • You do not have the training qualifications that you claimed you had on the application
  • You have been working with an SIA licence without the right to work or if the SIA have been informed by the relevant authorities that you do not have the right to work or are in the UK illegally
  • You break the conditions upon which your licence was issued
  • The SIA hold information which indicates you are not a fit and proper person to hold a licence
  • You become subject to detention or other compulsory measures due to mental disorder

If the SIA judge it necessary to revoke your licence, you will be informed in writing of this along with the basis for their decision and they will invite you to supply further information. You will have 21 days to provide a response to the revocation letter.

If you do not send a response within the 21 days then the decision to revoke your licence will take immediate effect 21 days after the revocation letter. You will again have a further 21 days in which to exercise the right of appeal to a Magistrate’s, Sheriff or District Court.

If you do send in a response within the 21 days then the SIA will give it due consideration and will write to you to inform you of their final decision. If they still feel it necessary to revoke your licence then you will have 21 days from the date of this letter in which to exercise the right of appeal to a Magistrate’s, Sheriff or District Court.

Suspending a licence

The SIA will normally consider suspension of licences only where they are reasonably satisfied that a clear threat to public safety could exist if they did not suspend the licence. This usually means that a serious offence has allegedly taken place where you have been charged but bailed. Licence suspensions have immediate effect. This means that you cannot legally work in any licensable sector even if you work for an approved contractor.

If it is in the public interest, the SIA will suspend licences in other circumstances. If the SIA judge it necessary to suspend your licence then they will write to inform you of this, providing the basis for their decision which will have immediate effect. You will then have 21 days in which to exercise a right of appeal to the Magistrate’s, Sheriff or District Court. At the same time you may also wish to tell the SIA of any factual errors in their assessment, e.g. an error of identity.

Your licence will remain suspended until the matter is resolved. The SIA monitor the suspensions and review them every 90 days. If, after suspension, the SIA judge it necessary to revoke your licence they will be revoking a suspended licence. This means that you will still be unable to work even if you appeal against revocation.

If your appeal against the revocation is successful, your licence will normally revert to its suspended status and be subject to the normal review process of 90 days.

Working in the security industry

What checks can employers do?

Although the SIA is exempt from the provisions of the ROA and will carry out a standard DBS check at application stage, the majority of job roles in the security industry are covered by the ROA. This means that an employer would only be able to ask you about unspent convictions and could only carry out a basic criminal record check.

If an employer wishes to undertake a DBS check and you have good reason to believe that it is an ineligible check, you should challenge this through the DBS.

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

  • Disclosure and Barring Service – The government body responsible for carrying our standard and enhanced criminal record checks.
  • Get Licensed – Published by the SIA, it has a detailed guide to how they deal with applicants who have a criminal record.
  • Criminal Record Indicator – An online tool which will give you an indication as to whether you may or may not meet the SIA’s criminality criteria in order to obtain an SIA licence.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found on our disclosing criminal records to employers and criminal record checks for employment sections
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord
  5. Help our policy work – Stopping unlawful/ineligible DBS checks
This page was last fully reviewed and updated in May 2017. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to advice@unlock.org.uk

 

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