What Powers do Security Guards Actually Have?

What Powers do Security Guards Actually Have?

Businesses across the UK often employ security guards to safeguard their staff and assets from criminal activities. Without proper security measures, companies risk becoming easy targets for break-ins or vandalism, and there’s no guarantee that police will arrive in time to prevent such incidents.

Hiring private security provides constant vigilance and a ready response to potential threats. Often, the simple presence of professional guards is enough to discourage would-be intruders from targeting a property.

But what happens when security guards face actual intruders? Many wonder about the exact powers these guards possess to protect a business, given that they’re not police officers.

Understanding the rights and limitations of security guards is crucial for everyone involved. For businesses, it helps set realistic expectations about their guards’ duties. For the public, it clarifies their own rights if they ever encounter a security guard.

This blog will examine the actual powers security guards have and how they can effectively protect businesses from crime. We’ll provide a clear overview of their roles, responsibilities, and legal boundaries within the UK context.

The Legal Powers of Security Guards

Security guards operate within the same legal framework as ordinary citizens. However, they can exercise their rights as private individuals to protect businesses. All security guards must hold a valid SIA licence, which ensures they have undergone proper training and background checks for safe industry practice.

Let’s examine what security guards are permitted and not permitted to do while on duty.

Can Security Guards Detain Individuals?

Security guards have the authority to detain or ‘arrest’ people under specific circumstances. According to Section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, any member of the public, including security personnel, can make a ‘citizen’s arrest’ if:

  • A person is actively committing an offence
  • There’s reasonable suspicion that someone is committing an offence
  • An offence has occurred and the suspect is known or suspected
  • A police officer is unable to make the arrest
  • It’s necessary to prevent a person from:
    • Causing physical harm to themselves or others
    • Suffering physical injury
    • Causing property loss or damage
    • Escaping before police can take charge

The Use of Force by Security Guards

A common question is whether security guards can use force, especially when someone resists arrest. Under section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, security guards may use ‘reasonable force’ to prevent a crime.

The law states:

“A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.”

This means security guards can use force, but it must be proportionate to the situation’s threat. Any excessive force could be deemed illegal. This legislation applies to all citizens, not just security guards. It allows them to use ‘reasonable’ force to protect themselves, property, and others while on duty.

Weapons and Security Guards

Unlike police officers, who have extra powers, security guards in the UK cannot legally carry weapons, even for self-defence.

Security guards may carry handcuffs but can only use them within the ‘reasonable’ force framework, such as when a person poses a danger to others. Proper training in this area is recommended for security guards to ensure they act within legal boundaries.

Can Security Guards Use Security Dogs?

While security guards cannot carry weapons, they may work alongside security dogs, which offer extra benefits, including personal protection.

Strict regulations govern the use of these dogs, as outlined in the Guard Dogs Act 1975. Security dogs must:

  • Be handled by trained professionals
  • Remain under control and on a lead at all times
  • Be accompanied by visible warning signs indicating their presence

Are Security Guards Allowed to Search People?

Security guards can only search individuals and their belongings with explicit consent. They cannot perform forced searches, even if someone is suspected of a crime. For instance, if they suspect shoplifting, they cannot conduct a forced search without the suspect’s agreement. In such cases, they may detain the suspect (as permitted under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) and contact the police, who have the authority to conduct forced searches.

However, there are specific situations where security guards may search without consent:

  1. They can examine unattended property in suspicious circumstances, such as a bag left alone in a public area.
  2. They may search an unconscious person’s possessions to identify them and provide assistance.

Many businesses employ security guards to check bags before allowing entry to certain spaces, like clubs, museums, or sports venues. These searches, often aimed at preventing drug use, drink spiking, or terrorism, are typically voluntary. If someone refuses to comply, security officers have the right to deny entry.

The Necessity of SIA Licences for Security Guards

Despite not having extra powers over regular citizens, security guards must obtain an SIA licence to perform ‘licensable activities’. This requirement is mandated by law.

The Security Industry Authority issues these licences and regulates the private security industry. Different licences are available for various roles:

  • Security guarding
  • Door supervision
  • Close protection
  • Cash and valuables in transit
  • Public space surveillance using CCTV
  • Key holding
  • Vehicle immobilising

SIA licences ensure guards receive proper training to protect themselves, your business, and others. They also clarify what guards can and cannot do, helping them stay within legal boundaries.

Choosing a Security Provider: Key Factors to Consider

When selecting a security company, consider these factors:

SIA Licensed Officers

Opt for a provider that ensures all guards hold valid SIA licences. This guarantees well-trained security personnel and high-quality service.

Nationwide Coverage

A company offering services across the UK allows you to maintain consistent security standards regardless of your location.

Industry Accreditations

Look for providers ranked highly by SIA and approved by ACS pacesetters. These accreditations indicate trustworthiness and expertise in the industry.

Tailored Solutionsa

Each business has unique security needs. Choose a provider that offers personalised security plans to address your specific requirements.

For expert security services and proessional corporate solutions, consider contacting a reputable provider. They can help you develop a security strategy that fits your organisation’s needs.

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