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What are security guards entitled to?


Have you ever wondered what are security guards entitled to? Over the years, more and more people are becoming increasingly aware of their rights. If you are employed as a security guard, you can easily find yourself stuck in a tricky situation, especially when it comes to shoplifting.

As a security guard, you should make sure that you know exactly what you can and cannot legally do in certain situations.


Let the truth be told, shoplifting is unlikely to disappear as long as there are still shops around us.
You are likely to come across someone trying to steal from the store your working in at at some point.

Many shops around us use several techniques to prevent shoplifting, and most of them only act as a deterrent. Cameras, prosecution signs and even security guards are employed because the sign of them alone will make an individual think twice before trying to shoplift.


Power of Arrest
Being a security guard does not mean you are above the law or have any legal power over any member of the general public. As a security guard, you must always be aware that you have just been employed to protect a business from theft.

Security guards and members of the public are allowed to make a citizen arrest under certain conditions. According to Section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, you can make an arrest for most indictable offences if:

  • Someone is in the act of committing an offence, or if you have reasonable grounds of suspecting them to be in the act of committing an offence, and
  • An officer has been committed and the person you want to arrest is guilty of that offence or who you have reasonable grounds for suspecting they are guilty.


The arrest will only be considered legal if:

  • It appears to the individual making the arrest that it is not reasonably practicable for a constable to make the arrest; and
  • The arrestor has reasonable grounds for believing that the arrest is necessary in-order to prevent that person from:
    1. Causing physical injuries to himself or others
    2. Suffering physical injury
    3. Causing loss or damage to the property
    4. Absconding before a constable can assume responsibility for him/her


As a security guard, it is your duty to prevent and minimize theft hence you are entitled to detain a person you suspect of shoplifting, for as long as you have reasonable grounds for this suspicion.

You should make sure as far as possible that you have reasonable grounds to believe the person is shoplifting before you approach them. A checklist for this may include:

  • Have you see the person take an item or several items from the store?
  • Did you see the person try to conceal or hide it on themselves?
  • Did the person then try to exit the store without paying for those item(s)?
  • Have you kept watch over them throughout this time?

If the answer is yes to all these questions, you should be in a fairly good position to detain them. You should also bear in mind that you should avoid using any sort of force if you can. You should explain to the person who committed the offence and explain why they are being stopped and what is happening. After contacting the police, you should remain with them at all times until the police arrive.


In-order to detain a suspected shoplifter, you are entitled to use a “reasonable” amount of force. According to the Criminal Law Act 1967 you may “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 or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.”


Power of Search
Security Officers do not have the power to commit a forced search of someone else’s property if the person is there and does not provide you with their consent.

However, they do have the right to search a person’s property if it is left unattended in suspicious circumstances. They can also search the property of an unconscious person if they are trying to identity the unconscious person, as it is best for that person’s welfare.


If you are interested and looking to work in the security industry, please send your latest CV to Alternatively, for latest job opportunities, go to:

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