Powers of Security Guards regarding Shoplifting

What is a security guard used for?

A security guard is somebody who is employed by an organisation to protect property, people or assets.

Most security guards work in some kind of store, their main duties are to observe everything that is happening in the store and to look out for suspicious activity, and in particular shoplifting. They do this by patrolling the store, using CCTV or guarding the entrance to the store. If they see any suspicious activity such as shoplifting, their job is to then deal with the matter in the best possible way.  As there is likely to be a shop full of other people causing a scene may not be the best route to take.

What powers does a security guard have?

The powers of security guards are the same powers as any other member of the public will have, they can make a ‘citizen’s arrest.’ They do not have any special kind of power, however their role is being looked at constantly and new developments might mean that they may be given more power in the near future.

Their powers have changed recently and are a lot more complex with much of it yet to be tried in court, but basically security guards have the power to detain a person who they believe to have committed an indictable offence. This means an offence which can be tried in crown court.

This covers many criminal offences including assaults (excluding common assault), theft and criminal damage.

Reasonable force in the circumstances may be used by a security guard to detain the person.

Several security guards are permitted to forcefully detain someone as long as the belief that this person has committed an indictable offence is “reasonable”. They can detain you inside a store as long as they have reasonable belief that you have committed an offence.

Reasonable belief means that a security guard cannot forcefully detain you unless their reasons for doing so are fair for example if you were seen taking something and hiding it somewhere on your person. To simply look suspicious would not be a reasonable belief.

How do these powers differ from police powers? 

The powers of security guards differ from those of the police in that police only need to suspect a crime (not believe) and they can arrest for any offence not just indictable ones.