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Security Guards

1    What powers does a security guard have?
2    Can a security guard search me?  
3    Can they arrest me?   
4    Can I be kicked out of a shopping centre by security?   
5    Can I be banned from a shopping centre or a shop?   
6    What should I do if I think a security guard has done the wrong thing?    

1    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 are often 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.

2    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 rules requiring you to consent to searches if you want to enter. If you don’t consent then you might be refused entry or asked to leave.

3    Can they arrest me?

A security guard, can arrest you if you are caught committing a crime or if you have just committed a crime. They can only use reasonable force to make the arrest.

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

What happens after you are arrested?

If you are arrested, the security guard or bouncer must take you before a police officer as soon as possible.

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.

4    Can I be kicked out of a shopping centre by security?

When you are on private property, such as a shopping centre, a security guard or bouncer can ask you to leave the premises even if you have done nothing wrong. If you do not leave after being requested, this is trespassing and you may be liable for a fine.

There are bigger penalties if you try and re-enter a venue, or if you refuse to leave and behave offensively. If you commit an offence, a security guard or bouncer can ask you to give your name and place of address. It is illegal to give a false name or false address.

What about a pub or a club?

If you are going to a bar, pub, club or other licensed premises, slightly different rules apply. If you are intoxicated, violent or disorderly, a security guard or bouncer can refuse to let you enter. But remember that they can only use reasonable force to make you leave the premises.

If you are refused entry in this situation, you can be asked to move 50 metres away from the premises. However, if you live within 50 metres of the venue, or you fear for your safety outside the venue, or you need to catch transport outside the venue, this is a valid excuse.

5    Can I be 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 send us a Lawmail and we can give you more information on what your options are.

6    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,
•    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.


NCYLC would like to express thanks to the law clerks and volunteers who assisted with the preparation of this material: Rahul Arora, Ed Slattery, Sebastian Hanscomb, Jaspreet Nagra.

This page was last updated in January 2017.