HELLO everybody – welcome to the latest instalment of the ‘Safety First’ column for The Northern Echo.

It’s been a difficult time since the last column because my wife, Rachel, contracted Covid-19 and ended up in hospital for a full week. She was on oxygen for 24-hours a day and became really poorly.

Rachel, pictured with me below, has no underlying health conditions, and is one of the fittest people I know. She runs five kilometres regularly, and was a personal fitness instructor, so it just goes to show that this horrible virus can strike anyone.

The Northern Echo:

She only ever really goes out when we need to stock up at the supermarket, and always wears a mask, so it underlines the fact that you can’t be too careful.

I’ll be honest, there were times when I started to fear the worst, but I have God to thank that’s she’s back home and well on the road to recovery. I know she’s getting better because she’s back to telling me what to do!

Seriously, it’s fantastic news that we’ve now got bright lights at the end of the tunnel with the announcements about the various vaccines, but please don’t be complacent. I’ve seen at first hand what a nightmare it is, so stay safe this Christmas.

At the end of every storm, there’s sunshine – and we have plenty of brighter days ahead. It’s just a question of being patient.


DESPITE everything that’s been going on with Covid, I’m proud to say that Sparta Security Group has been really busy and we have big plans for the New Year.

We’ll be launching Sparta Rural Enforcement – a new arm of the company that will specialise in helping to thwart in rural crime.

We’ve seen a dramatic increase in rural crime during the lockdown – including poaching, theft, criminal damage, fly-tipping and trespassing – and it’s abundantly clear there’s a demand for additional security in outlying areas.

Sparta Rural Enforcement will, therefore, be recruiting teams specifically made up of former police officers with expert knowledge and experience of rural beats.

The guards might be officers who have spent decades getting to know how rural criminals work, and we want them to be the eyes and ears of Sparta in the countryside. They have a niche skill set that will form the backbone of Sparta Rural Enforcement.

I want to emphasise that our aim is to complement what the police forces do. The simple fact is that they don’t have the resources to be everywhere, especially remote communities, so we aim to plug that gap and be their wingmen.

So, if you happen to be a retired police officer, with experience of rural law enforcement, if you’ve become bored with retirement, and you feel you still have something to offer, we want to hear from you. Get in touch via www.spartasecurityuk.co.uk.

MEANWHILE, we are delighted to be still going strong and welcoming new clients to the Sparta family.

We are building successful relationships with two companies running holiday parks across the UK – Maguires and Meridian.

They’ve needed extra security due to the closures over lockdown, and we’re proud of the role we’ve been able to play in preventing crime by arranging round-the-clock guards.

There was a recent example where it paid dividends when we came across a case of badger baiting on an estate overlooking one of the parks in Teesdale. We were able to take the registration number of a vehicle involved and alert the estates manager.

It’s all about being on the ground and nipping problems in the bud.

OTHER new clients include a cracking family business at Bishop Auckland, called Seagraves Pallets.

They’d been having a few problems with intruders, but we quickly arranged round-the-clock cover, including dogs, and there have been no issues since.

We’ve also started work with Applebridge Construction, in Sunderland, providing emergency response, and CCTV monitoring.

And we’ve been called in to look after the site of the new Darlington Fire Station that’s being built on the ring road. Dog patrols, CCTV and guards are all in place, and it’s a real honour to be supporting such a vital public service.


MARK my words, this is the time of the year to be extra vigilant, because criminals plot their activities around dark nights and bad weather.

They do their reconnaissance during daylight hours – looking out for patterns of behaviour and security weaknesses – and then strike when it’s dark.

They also know that the police helicopter is less likely to be operational during bad weather. In addition, pouring rain and high winds mask suspicious noises, so it’s more important that ever to be proactive about your security during the winter months.

Failing to take preventative measures with your security is like waiting until you’ve caught a cold before taking Vitamin C. Sort out the remedy in advance and you’ll avoid the pain.


Each month, I end this column with a fitting extract from The Bible. The choice for this month is Psalm 37:23-24 “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

In other words, put our maker first in everything you do and he will direct your steps. In this pandemic, in family life and in work, give thanks to God, ask him for direction, and wait patiently for his answer.

God bless, stay safe, and have a happy, peaceful Christmas.