Why do you never tell us what happened? By Mark Burtonwood

When people realise that one of my responsibilities is to lead the SIA’s Intelligence Team, I’m often asked why we don’t let people know what happened as a result of information they may have told us. It’s a really good question and one that worries me because it is important people know their information doesn’t just disappear into a black hole and get ignored, discouraging some people from passing on information in the future.

I want to reassure the readers of TPSO that we value all information passed on to us and that everything is assessed to establish what it is telling us about real or emerging threats that puts our regulation, the industry, buyers, or the public at risk. Of course sometimes a single piece of information may not be the full story, which is why we have an Intelligence Team made up of people who can develop information further, and carry out research and analysis to not only give us a bigger picture, but also a much richer picture.

As you would expect we receive lots of information from a wide range of sources, including our intelligence partners such as the police and other regulators, the industry and in fact anyone else who feels they need to tell us something. We do try to make it as easy as possible to pass information to us the most common ways being through our website or CrimeStoppers and during the last business year we processed almost 5,000 pieces of information.

Our Intelligence Team works to National Intelligence Model (NIM) principles, which are used by many organisations. We regularly look to ensure our ways of working are still current and suitable to meet our needs. Anyone who has worked in an intelligence environment will know that it isn’t a static process and we have a dynamic ‘intelligence cycle’ firmly embedded in what we do.

The Intelligence Cycle

A key component of the cycle is planning and directing what we do as a result of what our analysis tells us, and there are a number of options available to us. We can create a case to be allocated to one of our field or office based teams to enquire into the matter, or it may be that we need to pass the information onto another agency or regulator who is better placed to deal with it. If the information is about an individual licence holder it will be passed to our Decisions Team when appropriate.

The information we receive isn’t used just to identify when things are not good, we also use it to get a better understanding of the environment we regulate in and any changes that may be happening in the industry. Our Intelligence Team is in the process of preparing our Strategic Threat Assessment, which will provide a longer term view of what lies ahead. To do this we are also constantly reviewing the outcomes of what we do and feeding that back into the intelligence cycle process.

Our aim is to work with businesses and individuals to help them achieve compliance, but invariably sometimes we need to resort to prosecution. Many readers will have seen the results of court cases we publish following the work of our Criminal Investigation Team. Very often those cases start because of a simple piece of information, which may actually be the missing piece of the jigsaw for us. Consequently, all information is valuable to us and what may seem unimportant by some, may be relevant to the SIA.

No doubt some of the people who have passed information to us related to the criminal cases we have publicised, will put two and two together and know they have played an important part in helping make the industry better and things safer. It is also important to point out that we do make sure that any information we receive cannot be attributed anyone. We do this throughout the entire process with our Intelligence Team being the only ones who see the source of information. All this may sound a little like a John Le Carre spy novel but nothing could be further from the truth. I often say that we are the SIA and not the CIA, which is why people may wonder why we can’t tell them what happened with their information.

The reality is we are not able to provide specifics of any ongoing investigation and often it may be lots of little pieces of information that when joined together, result in us taking action, rather than a single submission. However, we do have plans in the near future to publish a list of ongoing investigation cases when they meet certain criteria, for example before any criminal charges are laid and when there is a need to protect the public. We also plan to publish what we are interested in knowing or feel we should know more about.

I hope this article helps to provide some explanation as to why we can’t always provide updates when we are passed information and gives reassurance that we value the information we receive as it is crucial to informing how we do business. I also hope it is shows that we are continually reviewing our processes making sure we are as transparent and as accessible as possible.

Mark Burtonwood

Mark Burtonwood

Mark is the Deputy Director, Operations, at the Security Industry Authority. Joining the SIA 10 years ago, he was formerly a Police Officer with over 30 years experience, retiring as Operational Commander for the City of Manchester and surrounding areas.

Mark is also a Chartered Security Professional (CSyP) and member of the Security Institute