What exactly can our security guards do?
It’s a question we are frequently asked here at Foremost Security. Public opinion of what security guards can or cannot do has been shaped by decades of TV dramas and big-screen movies where operatives are often seen pursuing criminals and applying a fair degree of physical force to bring them to a halt.
Here in the UK, security guards do not carry guns. Dramatic shootouts on the city streets or in crowded shopping malls were devised in the studios of Hollywood – and that is exactly where those scenes should stay.
Rights to arrest
Security guards are not simply another division of the police force. They have the same rights to make an arrest as any other UK citizen under Section 24A of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This law states that anyone can make an arrest for most indictable offences, for example if: –
- Someone is in the act of committing an offence (or you have reasonable grounds for suspecting them to be in the act of committing an offence)
- An offence has been committed and the person you want to arrest is guilty of that offence (or you have reasonable grounds for suspecting they are guilty of it)
And if an arrest is made by a security guard or a member of the public it will be only legal if: –
- It appears to the person making the arrest that it is not reasonably practicable for a constable to make the arrest instead
- The arrestor has reasonable grounds for believing that the arrest is necessary to prevent the person causing physical injury to himself or others, suffering physical injury, causing loss or damage to property or absconding before a constable can assume responsibility
Use of force
The donning of a uniform does not automatically give a security officer the right to apply significant levels of force either. Under Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 it is acceptable for any person to use ‘as much force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders/ suspected offenders/ persons unlawfully at large’ but no more.
Searching a person
Even when it comes to carrying out searches, there are very strict conditions as to when it is deemed to be appropriate – in the case of property, only if it is left unattended in suspicious circumstances or if the owner is unconscious and searching is therefore required for identification or to benefit the person’s welfare.
It is possible to conduct a search on a person (usually, but not necessarily only, an employee) upon exiting a premise, to ensure that they have not taken goods which do not belong to them. However, the security officer must have the permission of the person to be searched, otherwise the search cannot be carried out. There will be an agreement in place between the employees (or visitors) that searching can take place, often with union involvement. If under these circumstances someone refuses to be searched, the usual procedure would be to request management to attend to sort this matter out. In all circumstances it is illegal to use force when searching.
Deterrent, experience, training
So, the real ‘power’ of Foremost security guards isn’t anything to do with arresting wrongdoers or using brute strength to wrestle criminals to the ground, it’s entirely to do with their in-depth training and hard-earned experience. Their presence alone is a strong visual deterrent but, should their services be called upon, you can rest assured that they will apply their expertise professionally and represent your business admirably.
Find out more
Regardless of your business type or the premises you have, Foremost Security can provide the exact security solution you need for total peace of mind. Click for more information on our guarding services.