The top questions about security guards answered

People are often unsure about what a security officer can and can’t do. This blog answers some of the most common questions.

Images of American security guards armed with guns and other weapons influence what we think about UK security officers. Security officers in this country have no more rights than an average citizen, but through their training they are able to quickly identify threats, assess difficult situations and make split-second decisions that can diffuse a potential incident or prevent loss, injury or damages.

Here we try to answer some of the most common questions about security guards in the UK…

Can security guards detain criminals?

As already stated, security guards do not have any more legal powers than any other member of the general public. They have merely been employed by a business to help protect it from theft or damage. However, security guards, like any member of the public, can make a citizen’s arrest under certain conditions.

A citizen’s arrest can be made if the officer

  • Sees the person in the act of committing an indictable offence
  • Has reasonable grounds to suspect the person is committing an indictable offence


  • It is not practical for a police constable to make the arrest
  • It is necessary to prevent the person being arrested causing physical injury to themselves or others
  • To prevent the person from suffering physical injury
  • To prevent the person causing loss or damage to property
  • To prevent the person making off before a police constable can assume responsibility for them

While carrying out a citizen’s arrest, the officer should inform the person being arrested what they are doing, why they are doing it and what offence they believe has been committed.

Can a security officer use force?

To detain a suspected shoplifter, for example, security officers are entitled to use a ‘reasonable’ amount of force. According to the Criminal Law Act 1967, they 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’.

Reasonable force can also be used to prevent injury to other people or the officers themselves. As well as self-defence, pre-emptive force can also be used if the officer has reason to believe they are in danger.

Can security guards carry guns?

Security guards in the UK are not permitted to carry guns. They are also not allowed to carry batons, pepper spray, tasers or other weapons. While handcuffs can be used by any civilian in the UK, security guards should be trained in how to apply the cuffs correctly to avoid injury.

Can a security guard legally search my possessions?

A security guard cannot commit a forced search of your property without your permission. If they believe that you have committed a theft, they can detain you and wait for a police officer to arrive.

Security officers are permitted to search property that has been left unattended in suspicious circumstances. They may also search the property of someone who is unconscious in an attempt to identify them or if it is best for that person’s welfare.

Officers such as door staff must have your permission to search your person. Often a stipulation of entry into a pub or club, if you refuse to be searched they may refuse you entry to the establishment. There is no law to stop a male officer from searching a female. However, as searches are not supposed to be an uncomfortable or humiliating experience, often a member of the same sex will carry out the search.

Abbey Security provide SIA licenced security officers to businesses throughout Suffolk and Cambridgeshire

Hopefully this has given a brief overview into the rights of security officers and the public. If put into demanding situations with a threat of violence, security officers have been trained to deal with these effectively, often making important decisions in a fraction of a second. As per UK law, all our officers are SIA accredited and have undertaken extensive training to be able to perform their duties effectively and efficiently.

To find out more about how our security services can benefit your business, call us on 01284 768832 or fill in our contact form.

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Posted on April 4, 2018

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