Powers of security guards

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Security guards and bouncers are not police officers, and they do not have the same powers as the police. Find out what powers a security guard has below. 

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What powers does a security guard have?

You may have to deal with security guards or bouncers at shopping centres, concerts, nightclubs, pubs or anytime you want to go onto someone else’s property. Security guards usually work for the owner of a shop or nightclub, or the organiser of a concert. 

Security guards and bouncers are not police officers, and they do not have the same powers as the police. A bouncer is really just a security guard employed by a licensed venue like a pub or club.

Security guards and bouncers in Victoria are required by law to obtain a licence.

Security guards are hired by property owners to do things like:

  • Protecting or guarding property, or keeping it under surveillance,
  • Preventing, detecting or investigating crimes in relation to a property,
  • Controlling crowds.

A security guard working as a crowd controller must wear something that clearly identifies them as being a member of security.

Can a security guard search me?

A security guard or bouncer cannot search you without your permission.

However, many places (including shops, shopping centres, pubs and clubs) might have owners’ rules requiring you to consent to searches. If you don’t consent then you might be refused entry or asked to leave.

Can they arrest me?

A security guard can arrest you if you are caught committing a crime or suspected of committing a crime. They can only use reasonable force to arrest you.

Normally, a security guard or bouncer making an arrest must tell you that you are under arrest and why you’re been arrested.

What happens after you are arrested?

If a security guard or bouncer arrests you, they must either call the police straight away, or take you to a police officer as soon as possible. The security guard or bouncer can detain you until the police officer arrives or you are taken to the police.

A security guard or bouncer cannot use excessive force in arresting you.  

If you feel that a security guard or bouncer arrested you unlawfully, contact a lawyer.

What if you witness a crime?

If you think you have witnessed a crime occurring, you should contact the police. It is not a good idea to make an arrest yourself.

Even if you are only trying to help, arresting someone without a good reason can leave you facing charges of your own and it can be dangerous.

Can a security guard kick me out of a shopping centre or a shop?

A security guard can ask you to leave, if you fail to do so, you’ll be guilty of trespassing.

The owners of licensed premises can face heavy penalties for letting underage people onto their property, or serving them alcohol. You can expect to be refused entry if you can’t prove you’re 18 or older.

Can I banned from a shopping centre or a shop?

There are no laws about banning a customer from a shop, so there is no limit on how long a ban can last, how the ban can be issued, or the reasons for banning someone. This means a manager of a shop or shopping centre can ban a customer for all kinds of reasons, including if they believe a customer has been rude or disruptive.

However, shops are not allowed to discriminate against customers based on certain characteristics, including age.

If you’ve received a banning notice, please contact us here and we can give you more information on what your options are.

What should I do if I think a security guard has done the wrong thing?

If you have a problem with a security guard, it’s a good idea to:

  • ask them for their full name and identification number (you can save it in your notes on your phone);
  • write down anything you remember about the situation, including dates, times and what you did and what they said; and
  • take pictures on your phone of any injuries that happen to you.

If you believe a security guard or bouncer has wrongly arrested or detained you, you may, in some cases, be able to sue the security guard or shop owner for false imprisonment or assault.

You can also make a complaint to the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police if you believe a security guard or bouncer has done the wrong thing. You can call them on 1300 363 101 or visit: http://www.police.vic.gov.au/content.asp?Document_ID=11933#05

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