What Security Guards Can And Can’t Do UK

by | Feb 9, 2024 | Security Guards

Security guards hold a lot of authority in their hands, given they’re tasked with looking after and protecting business owner’s properties or people. However, with all these responsibilities, there are still certain restrictions that they face. So we’ll be covering what security guards can and can’t do in the UK.

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What Do Security Guards Do?

Whilst it may often seem otherwise, security guards hold no more power than civilians do, meaning they follow the same laws and regulations. A security guard is tasked with ensuring the protection of property, assets or people – more often than not, a mixture of the three. However, because they hold little more authority than a regular person, they tend to be a lot calmer and less forceful in comparison to the police; though they still do a fantastic job of safeguarding assigned targets.

Because of the nature of their work, many responsibilities fall on a security guard’s shoulders, some of which include:

  • Performing routine patrols of the premises they’re assigned to
  • Surveillance system monitoring
  • Respond swiftly to emergency alarms
  • Customer service duties, should the role call for it
  • Check IDs, where appropriate
  • Compose thorough incident reports
  • Ensure that rules are being followed

Their duties largely vary depending on the location or task they’ve been employed to do – but for the most part, their job is relatively straightforward.

Unfortunately, however, they may sometimes be left with no choice but to take action and involve themselves with the general public. If a situation like that occurs, there are vital laws to know, both as a security officer and a civilian.

What Powers Do Security Guards Have UK

As a security guard follows civilian laws, their capabilities in stopping potential criminals can be quite limited; but still beneficial. Knowing these laws, as both a security guard and a civilian, can often come in handy as you are then educated in general laws which is valuable knowledge.

As a citizen, knowing these laws can prevent you from being wrongfully mistreated by security. As a security guard, having these laws in mind will help you to properly conduct your duties within the bounds of the law, and will prevent you from getting into unnecessary trouble.

Detain Members of The General Public

Whilst it is true that security guards don’t hold any more legal authority than members of the general public, this does not stop them from being able to detain civilians. If a security officer has reasonable grounds to suspect you of a crime or has directly witnessed you commit a crime, they can legally detain you until the appropriate authorities arrive to handle the situation – called a citizen’s arrest.

Be mindful, however, as there are additional circumstances in which they may also detain you. If you are acting disorderly, attempting to cause harm to yourself or others, or attempting to vandalise and damage property, they may also detain you. Finally, if you attempt to leave a scene before authorities have arrived to take control of the situation, you are rightfully allowed to be detained then, too.

Touch Civilians

This is not all security guards are limited to, as they are allowed to touch you whilst in the act of detaining you. Provided that they don’t use excessive force, it is entirely legal for a security officer to touch you whilst they detain you – as it is mandatory to achieve that result successfully.

Outside of detaining a person, it is important to bear in mind that security guards can only touch you during specific situations that abide by the law. This is due to the limited authority that they possess. Additionally, they are allowed to touch you to protect themselves, others, or property and assets they have been assigned to.

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Use Surveillance Systems to Monitor People

Professional officers are also permitted to use surveillance systems, such as CCTV, to monitor the premises they are guarding, provided that it is appropriate to do so. People must also be made aware that they’re being recorded when they step onto the property – whether they’re alerted via a sign or simply told directly.

This is because personal data, like biometric data, falls under the protection of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), making it illegal to gather this information without informed consent. It also acts as the reason why citizens can request for their faces to be removed from CCTV footage in areas that are being surveyed.

Search Members of the Public

Security guards may only legally search your belongings or your person if you consent to it. Without express consent, there is nothing they can do to change that. However, if you refuse a search to enter certain locations – such as clubs – you may be refused entry but nothing more.

The situation can become slightly more complicated when involving a suspected crime. For example, if the security guard suspects you of committing theft, and you refuse their request for a bag search, chances are the guard will not perform it. Instead, however, they are likely to detain you until the appropriate authorities arrive to perform a legal, forced search.

Additionally, there are some situations in which security personnel can search a person’s belongings without the need for consent. This only applies if a bag has been left unattended, and is suspected of posing a bomb threat, however.

They may also search a person’s bag if they fall unconscious, to aid in identifying them or medications which may help to improve their health condition.

What Can’t Security Guards DO?

There are laws that professional security personnel must abide by to do their job correctly. Breaking these laws can result in charges against you, and whatever sentence may follow from that. It is vital to be mindful of these guidelines to avoid any risks of being sued, abusing power or getting your license revoked.

Refuse to Identify Themselves

By law, security guards are required to wear their licence and badge for as long as they are on duty. The identification must also be displayed in places that are directly visible to members of the public, so that they are made aware that you are, indeed, a licenced professional.

If you happen to come across a security guard who is not appropriately displaying their licence and badge, it is best practice to inform the company they are working for immediately.

Alternatively, if you are an officer and have lost or misplaced your licence, you need to immediately inform the Security Industry Authority (SIA). Fortunately, you are allowed to continue working until your replacement arrives. Do be mindful, however, that if the SIA discovers you have been working without displaying your badge or licence, they may be revoked or you may face legal prosecution for violating the terms of service regarding your licencing.

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Perform Arrests

Guards cannot legally perform anything outside of a citizen’s arrest, as they don’t hold any additional legal powers that regular civilians do not. Security workers are simply employed by a business to make sure their property, assets and employees remain safeguarded and secure.

As previously discussed, a citizen’s arrest may only legally be performed when certain criteria have been met; so be extra aware of if you have the right to perform the arrest or not.

Carry Weapons

In the UK, it is illegal to carry weapons of any kind. Unlike police – who are allowed to arm themselves with tasers, pepper spray, batons or firearms – security personnel cannot carry that sort of equipment on them at any given point. They are, however, permitted to carry and use handcuffs as a preventative security measure to aid in carrying out citizen’s arrests. It is important to remember that they can only be kept on until the authorities have arrived, in which case, they must then be removed.

A Summary Of: What Security Guards Can And Can’t Do UK

All-in-all, there is a relatively even spread of what security guards can and can’t do, as we have covered that they do not possess any additional authority or legal power to that of a regular bystander. Unlike the police force, they do not receive any additional privileges, and can only perform citizen’s arrests to detain potential criminals until the police arrive.

Fortunately, however, their capabilities mean that they can still competently carry out their duties to an effective standard, helping to prevent incidents from occurring on-site by acting as a visual deterrent or simply aiding in putting a stop to a situation if one happens to occur. Ultimately, it is their job to effectively and efficiently nip criminal activity in the bud before it can be allowed to escalate.

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