Transit Officers & Security Guards

NEW SOUTH WALES

TRANSIT OFFICERS

What powers do police have on public transport?

What powers does a transit officer have?

Can I be fined for having the wrong ticket, not having my concession card or not buying a ticket?

Can transit officers and police officers arrest me?

Can I be asked to leave public transport?

What if I have been wrongly searched by the police?

What if I have been wrongly arrested?

How can I make a complaint about a transit officer or police officer?


SECURITY GUARDS AND BOUNCERS

What powers do security guards and bouncers have?

Can a security guard at a shop check my bags or pockets?

Can I be banned from a shopping centre or other shop?

What can I do if I think a security guard or bouncer has broken the law?



TRANSIT OFFICERS

In NSW, public transport is patrolled by specially trained police officers and transit officers.   Police monitor behaviour across the public transport network, and will be looking out to make sure people are behaving themselves and not damaging property.  Transit officers focus on things like fare evasion (when you don’t buy the right ticket, or you don’t have a ticket).


What powers do police have on public transport?


Transport police are sworn police officers and have the same powers as any other police officers. To find out what powers police have, please see our police powers page.


What powers does a transit officer have?


Transit officers can:

  • ask to see your ticket or Opal Card (and if you don’t have it or show it you can be fined $200!)
  • ask to see your concession card (and if you don’t have it you can be fined $200).
  • ask for your full name, address and ID if they suspect you have committed a crime (and if don’t answer them or you give them false information you can be fined $100 or even arrested)
  • fine you for things like like:
  • swearing;
  • putting your feet on a seat;
  • smoking;  
  • eating or drinking; 
  • littering;  
  • blocking train or bus doors; 
  • leaving the train while it is moving; and 
  • trespassing on railway land; 
  • interfering with automatic doors and vandalism.

You can be fined as much as $200 for doing these things.


Can I be fined for having the wrong ticket, not having my concession card or not buying a ticket?


Yes!  You can be fined $200 if you travel without a concession card or you don’t buy a ticket. It is not a reasonable excuse to say.

  • "I was running late"
  • "I didn't know the fare"
  • "I didn't know what kind of ticket to buy"
  • "I left my concession card at home"
  • "I've lost my ticket"
  • "I thought I tapped on"
  • "I forgot to tap on"
  • "I didn't realise my balance was so low"
  • "I topped up my card just before I tapped on"

For more information about concession cards, please see our page on “Travel and Concession Cards”.


Can transit officers and police officers arrest me?

  • Transit officers can only arrest you if they see you breaking the law.  If they arrest you they have to hand you over to police as soon as possible. 

  • A police officer can arrest you if they see you breaking the law or they think you have broken the law.

Can transit officers and police officers search me or my things or confiscate them?

Transit officers can’t search you without your permission.  Transit officers can confiscate your concession card if it’s not yours.

Police officers can search you if they think you have stolen property, drugs, a weapon or anything else that you are going to use to commit a crime. 

If you’ve been searched or had something confiscated and you think this is unfair, please send us a Lawmail  and we can give you some advice.


Can I be asked to leave public transport?

  • Yes, a transit officer or police officer can direct you to leave the bus, train or light rail if they believe that: your body, clothing or bags may damage the  bus, train or light rail or any passengers;
  • you are causing, or might cause, inconvenience to other passengers; or
  • you are committing an crime (including vandalism).


If you have been given a direction to leave, you cannot re-enter the train, train station, bus or ferry within 2 hours unless you have a reasonable excuse. If you do not follow their instructions, they can fine you and/or forcibly remove you.


What if I have been wrongly searched by the police?


You might have been illegally searched if

  • a police officer does not have any reasonable grounds to search you;
  • a police officer searches you without introducing themselves and informing you of the reasons for the search; and 
  • where the search is excessive and beyond the police officer’s powers.

If you think a police officer has used excessive force or has acted beyond their powers of search, you can make a complaint and may even be able to take legal action against them. To find out more about complaints about police officers on our Lawstuff page, click here.


What if I have been wrongly arrested?


If a transit officer or police officer arrests or detains you without a proper reason, they might be guilty of assault and false imprisonment.  False imprisonment is when a person (including a police officer) intentionally and unlawfully restricts your freedom of movement by threatening you or by actual physical violence.

If this has happened to you, you may be able take legal action against the police officer or transit officers.

If you feel you have been wrongly detained, arrested or searched, please send us a Lawmail and we can give you some advice.

 


How can I make a complaint about a transit officer or police officer?


You can make a complaint about authorised officer through Transport for NSW here.

To make a complaint about a police officer, please check out our page on Police Complaints.

In your complaint, it’s a good idea to include the name of the police officer, and their badge number.

If you need help making a complaint, please send us a Lawmail

SECURITY GUARDS AND BOUNCERS


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.  They usually wear a uniform similar to police but it’s a bit different, and sometimes they wear a fluorescent vest.

What powers do security guards and bouncers have?


In New South Wales, security guards can use reasonable force to make you leave private property. This means they can push you out for example by grabbing you if you don’t agree to leave.  But remember they can only use reasonable force.  If you think they have used unreasonable force, please send us a Lawmail.

Security guards can arrest you if you are caught committing a crime or you’ve just committed a crime.  If a security guard arrests you, they can only use reasonable force  and they have to call the police straight away or take you to the police as soon as possible.

If you’re on someone else’s property without permission, a security guard can also ask you for your name and address.  If you don’t tell them your name and address, or you lie about your name or address, you will be fined $55

Security guards generally can’t:
 

  • confiscate your stuff (except a fake ID)
  • search you or your bag without your permission
  • require you to move away from a public area (but they can if it’s private property)
  • give you a fine
  • use excessive unreasonable force in any situation
  • ban you only because of your age, unless it is a legal requirement (e.g. at a licensed venue), or ban you because of your race, disability or because you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
  • ban someone from a space near the shopping centre, such a footpath outside the building

If any of this has happened to you, please send us a Lawmail.



Can a security guard at a shop check my bags or pockets?


Shops and shopping centres are meant to be accessed by the public, but they are privately owned. This means the shop owner or manager can set rules for the shop and can ban anyone who refuses to follow the rules. If they choose to, shops can make checking pockets or bags a condition of entry. If this is the store's policy, it should generally be posted on a sign near the entrance.



Can I be banned from a shopping centre or other 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’re received a banning notice, please send us a Lawmail and we can give you more information on what your options are.



What can I do if I think a security guard or bouncer has broken the law?


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.
  • take pictures on your phone of any injuries that happen to you


If a security guard arrests you without a good reason or uses unreasonable force, you can:

  • make a complaint to the company who employs the security guard (for example, the owner of the shop or club or the security company which employs the security guard).
  • make a complaint to the police about illegal assault
  • make a complaint to the Security Licensing & Enforcement Directorate at the NSW Police
  • in some cases, you may also be able to sue the security guard or shop owner for assault or false imprisonment.


If you would like any more information on transit officers and security guards, including how to make a complaint about a security guard, please send us a Lawmail.   

This was last updated on the 27 May 2015.