Security Guards are employed by businesses and organisations often for two main reasons, to deter threats such as theft and vandalism, and to deal with these issues if they arise. But what are security guards legally allowed to do? Can security guards detain you? As they are employed to deal with crime, it is often believed that they have the same or similar rights and powers as those that work in the police force.
However, this is not the case; security guards have no more rights or legal authority than members of the general public (you could even deny speaking to a guard if you did not want to). This of course raises further questions on what it is precisely that a security guard is allowed to do when dealing with customers or potential threats.
There are a lot of myths about what security guards can and can’t do…
- Can Security guards touch you?
- Can security guards detain you?
- Can security guards arrest you?
Let’s take a look at what exactly a security guard is allowed to do…
Can Security Guards Touch You?
Security guards are allowed to touch you, within reason. For example, a security guard is allowed, like any member of the general public, to perform a citizen’s arrest on you. Therefore, they are allowed to touch you during this process. Security guards are also allowed to use reasonable force like everyone is.
Guards can also touch you for the purpose of performing a physical search, for example when entering an event or building, guards can perform a physical search to ensure no prohibited items are trying to be smuggled in! They can also escort you from private property or stop you from entering private property with reasonable force.
Can Security Guards Detain You?
Security guards are legally allowed to detain you in the form of a citizen’s arrest, as is any member of the public. But this can only be performed in certain situations. (See the next section for more info!)
They can escort you from private property and stop you from entering private property, but again only with reasonable force and cannot aggressively or forcibly detain someone against their will.
Can Security Guards Arrest You?
Like any other member of the public, security guards are allowed to perform a citizen’s arrest if they have reasonable grounds for suspicion of the person they plan on arresting. They cannot arrest you in the same sense as a police officer can hough. Being able to arrest and take someone into custody is something only the police can do.
Although, there are certain conditions that the situation must meet in order for the citizen’s arrest to be a legal one, these come under Section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
Take note of the conditions for a legal citizen’s arrest listed below:
- they witness or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a person has committed a crime
- they witness or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a person is in the act of committing a crime
- to protect a person from causing physical injury to themselves or others
- to prevent a person from damaging the property or causing a loss to the business/organisation
- they believe that it is not practical in that moment for a police constable to make the arrest instead of themselves
- to prevent a person from running away and leaving the scene before a police constable arrives to assume responsibility for them
Can a Security Guard Physically Restrain You?
A security guard, like the general public, can only physically restrain someone during a citizen’s arrest. If the conditions of a citizens arrest are not met, or the reasonable force is exceeded, then a security guard cannot physically restrain you. The force used by a security guard must be of a ‘reasonable’ amount, so in that case, this means that any levels of force such as physical restraint and grabbing must only be used when completely necessary and when in the process of detaining someone. This could be if you attempt to escape after committing an offence or if they believe that you could cause damage to yourself or others in the vicinity.
Can a Security Guard Search You?
A security guard is not allowed to search you or your possessions without your consent if you are present and conscious. This includes searching your bag and searching your car.
This also applies to security guards who believe that they have caught a shoplifter, as they too are not permitted to conduct a forced search if the person does not give them permission; in this scenario they would have to detain the suspected shoplifter until a police constable arrives and can conduct one.
However, there are some scenarios in which a search could be made without the person’s consent:
- If a bag or any other type of belonging or possession has been left unattended in a suspicious circumstance, then they have the right to search it as it could pose as a threat to the safety of those nearby
- If the person is unconscious and they are trying to identify them in order to help them, then the security guard is allowed to search their bag for this
Can a Security Guard Carry Weapons in the UK?
The short answer is no. As Security Guards have the same rights and legal authority as the general public, this means that they cannot carry any form of weapon. That includes but is not limited to:
- Pepper Spray
Security Guards are allowed to carry handcuffs and use them to help detain people when necessary. Although, it is recommended that they have proper training before being allowed to use them while on the job so that they can use them safely and avoid injuring either themselves or the detained person in the process. See our what are security guards allowed to carry articel for lots more information and advice surrounding this topic!
security guards have no more rights or legal authority than members of the general public (you could even deny speaking to a guard if you did not want to)
Frequently asked questions on What security guards can legally do:
Can security guards touch you and can a security guard grab you?
Yes, security guards, just like anyone else, has the right to use reasonable force against someone. This means they can touch you in order to perform a citizen’s arrest or to remove you from somewhere if necessary. This does not mean, however, that they can use any kind of violence against anyone. This is normally the last resort to resolve a safety situation, as guards only use force when necessary.
Can security guards follow you?
If a security guard has reason to believe someone is involved in or may be about to commit a crime, they can and may follow you in order to resolve the situation or to gather more information. For example, if someone trespasses on a site, a security guard is allowed to follow that individual.
Can male security guards search a female?
There is not a law against security guards of the opposite gender from searching people when only outer clothing such as jackets are removed. However, it is common practice that security guards of the same gender search individuals, for example when entering a venue. Therefore, there are normally multiple security officers of both genders for larger events.
Does a security guard have the right to search you, and can security guards search your bag?
Security guards can only search you or your bag if you give consent. However, if you do not give consent, they may ask you to leave a venue or refuse entry somewhere due to safety risks.
Can you defend yourself against a security guard?
Reasonable force can be used in situations that require you to protect yourself but is used as a last resort. Security guards will not try and detain or question individuals unless they are given a reasonable justification to.
Can a security guard handcuff you?
Security guards can use handcuffs if they have the necessary training and license. But they cannot arrest you, apart from a citizen’s arrest.
Can a security guard physically remove you?
Yes, a security guard can remove you from a premises if they have just cause. They cannot use violence against you but do have the right to remove you from private property if you don’t have the right to be there by using reasonable force. This is only done when it is completely necessary though.
Can a Security Guard ask you to Leave if you don’t comply?
If a Security Guard asks you to allow them to conduct a search of your bag and you refuse them, then they are fully within their rights to forbid you from entering the premises, whether that be a club, bar or otherwise.
This is often a safety standard rule set by these types of businesses that run through the night.
In summary, Security Guards in the UK have the same authority and rights as any other UK citizen as they do not get any extra power or privileges like the police force. Their presence alone often acts as a deterrent for potential thieves and vandals, but if a situation arises, they are well trained and equipped to identify and deal with it quickly and calmly.
In recent years there have been calls for MPs security to be evaluated, with more services and security guards to be made more available for members of parliament. This comes from a rise in political discourse and public outcry to hold politicians more accountable for their actions, which can unfortunately lead to abuse and the threat of violence.
Security guards are vital if you want to protect the assets of your business. The key to successful security guarding is to ensure staff have the right knowledge and awareness of security practices.
It is extremely important for all businesses or anyone to consider physical security, as physical security such as security guards can help protect a business and people away from any potential security threats.
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