Can Security Guards Detain You or Touch You?

Written by Holly Savage

30th July 2019

Security guards are employed by businesses and organisations for two main reasons to deter threats such as theft and vandalism and to deal with these issues if they arise. Some people believe that as guards are employed to deal with crime, they have the same rights and powers as those who 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 didn’t want to). So, what are security guards legally allowed to do then? Can security guards detain you if they believe you are committing a crime?

We’ll be discussing this and more such as what security guards can and can’t do in the UK, if they can make arrests, and whether security guards are allowed to touch you.

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 else.

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.

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 detain you

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 though. 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.

These conditions that people can perform citizen’s arrest are:


  • If you have witnessed or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a person has committed a crime.
  • If you 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.
  • If you believe that it is not practical at 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 citizen’s 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 security guards touch you

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. Due to the UK’s strong laws against carrying firearms, this means that they cannot carry any form of weapon, such as batons, guns, tasers, or pepper spray.

can security guards use handcuffs

Can Security Guards Use Handcuffs?

Security guards are allowed to carry handcuffs and use them to help detain people when necessary. However, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions On What Security Guards Can Legally Do?

There are still many questions surrounding what guards are legally allowed to do. We have listed and answered the most popular questions in more detail.


Can Security Guards Touch You And Can A Security Guard Grab You?

Yes, security guards, just like anyone else, have 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 no 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 to detain or question individuals unless they are given a reasonable justification.


Can A Security Guard Handcuff You?

Security guards can use handcuffs if they have the necessary training and licence. 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 the 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.


How Long Can A Security Guard Detain You?

Honestly, there is no set amount of time that security guards will be able to detain you. But is normally till law enforcement officers such as the police have arrived.


Can A Security Guard Detain You For Trespassing?

Yes, it is possible for a security guard to detain you for trespassing. If a guard believes that you are committing a crime whilst you are trespassing or if you are trespassing to break into a property, then a security guard will be allowed to detain you till the police arrive.


Can A Security Guard Ban You From A Store?

Security guards won’t be able to ban you from a store as it is normally up to the owners of the shop to decide whether someone is banned or not. But security guards will be allowed to refuse your entry into a venue if they there are grounds to suggest that you’ve committed a crime.


Can Security Guards Use Force?

A common question asked about guards is whether they are allowed to use force when they are detaining you or stopping a crime. And honestly, security guards aren’t allowed to be forceful or harmful. According to the government, the Criminal Law Act of 1967 states that security guards are only allowed to use reasonable force to prevent crimes.


how long can a security guard detain you

So, Can Security Guards Detain You?

Overall, security guards can detain you if they believe you are committing a crime, but they won’t be allowed to properly arrest you. 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.

If you would like to keep updated with all the latest security guard news, why not check out our blog? Where you can find articles about what guards are allowed to carry and what equipment every security guard needs.

Let’s Stay In Touch

Want to stay updated with our latest content? Enter your email address to subscribe to our free newsletter.

Related Articles

How To Prepare For A Night Shift As A Security Guard

How To Prepare For A Night Shift As A Security Guard

In this article, we delve into the essential aspects of how to prepare for a night shift as a security guard. We’ll explore the strategies that can help you navigate the challenges of the night with confidence.

Our Guide To Security Robots

Our Guide To Security Robots

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology and security, new possibilities have emerged with the invention of security robots. Join us on a journey into the realm of security robotics!

What Does A Factory Security Guard Do?

What Does A Factory Security Guard Do?

Security guards work in a variety of positions and situations. As you probably know by now, protecting your business is not a decision to be made hastily. One of the places where security guards are most effective is a factory setting.

What Does A University Security Officer Do?

What Does A University Security Officer Do?

Student safety has come to the fore of public conversation lately, with initiatives such as the ‘Big Night In’. In this new climate, university security guards at universities are often under more scrutiny than ever.

Security Guards Vs CCTV

Security Guards Vs CCTV

When it comes to securing your business, security guards and CCTV cameras are two of the most popular options. However, it can be difficult to decide which option to go for.  When it comes to security guards vs CCTV, which is better?

What Is The Difference Between USA And UK Security Guards?

What Is The Difference Between USA And UK Security Guards?

Two areas in the world where security guards are the most popular are the UK and America. According to online statistics from Zippia, there are currently 823,148 guards employed in the USA. While the UK government website suggests there are around 64,226 active UK security guards.

What Is A Security Manager?

What Is A Security Manager?

Aside from close protection officers and security guards, there are many other jobs within the security industry. And one of the highest job positions in the security industry is a security manager.

Do You Need A Mental Health Check To Apply For An SIA Licence?

Do You Need A Mental Health Check To Apply For An SIA Licence?

Mental health is always important to consider when applying for or working in any job. But do you need a mental health check to apply for an SIA licence? We’ll be discussing this and more such as, can you be a security guard with mental illness, what you need to know about mental health in the security industry, and how guards cope with stress and pressure.