What Security Guards Can and Can’t do in the UK

What is a security guard, and what do they do? 

A Security Officer, also known as a Security Guard, is responsible for ensuring the safety of the property, company, group, or individuals they are assigned to protect. Their responsibilities include keeping watch on the site, dealing with threats and inappropriate behaviour, responding to emergencies, and keeping note of all on-site happenings. But what exactly can security guards do?

The guards aid safety by providing physical presence, patrolling, and undertaking surveillance services. This helps to deter behaviour or to provide information about criminal or antisocial actions. Three different types of tasks can be performed by trained SIA security guards. This can include guarding premises, guarding property, and guarding specific persons. 

A security guard

What are Security Guards Allowed to do in the UK? 

Generally speaking, security guards are still civilians, like any other person. This means the same rules and laws apply to them as anyone else. Their primary duties are to observe what goes on around them and to deter people from doing anything they shouldn’t. 

Occasionally, however, security guards must interact with the public for the sake of offering protection. Here are some important laws to know. 

Security guards can use surveillance equipment to monitor behaviour 

The use of CCTV and the presence of security guards walking around the area is increasingly common these days. Guards may watch a space from the control room  and look for issues. This means when and where they are needed on the ground, they are dispatched immediately. 

This can be effective for security; however, you need to remember that a person’s biometric data is considered personal data under GDPR. This means that for this surveillance to be legal, the data must only be collected with informed consent. It also needs to be proportionate to the use for which it is being gathered.  

Facial recognition AI is a big issue in technology today. As this comes under biometric personal data, it can be risky to implement in security. 

As well as considering the legalities, you should also consider if surveillance would be perceived negatively by your clients.

Security guards cannot perform searches of personal property without permission 

When a property has been left unattended in suspicious circumstances, security guards can search the property. In these situations, there is no person to ask permission to search. 

They may not search personal property without a search warrant. This is unless the owner of that property is incapacitated and they are attempting to identify and/or assist the owner. 

Security guards cannot carry weapons (although they are permitted to use handcuffs) 

Security guards cannot use a weapon. This includes pepper spray, batons, guns, or tasers. 

There are only a few scenarios where security guards can effectively use handcuffs. Carefully putting them on is paramount to preventing injury to the person they are used on. If done incorrectly, there is a risk of exposing the company to legal action on health and safety grounds. 

Security guards can detain people, but only “reasonable force” is permitted to do this 

Security guards must be aware of a tricky part of the law. They may detain a person as in the UK, anyone can make a citizen’s arrest

The security guard can only make an arrest using “reasonable” force, which means “minimal” force in practical terms. The problem is not necessarily determining how much force is reasonable, but proving this to the court. Security guards are never permitted to use excessive force or violence.   

The best scenario is if it’s possible to provide an objective record (e.g. body-cam footage) of the process. It’s less risky than relying on witness testimony. 

A security car and security guard jacket

Power of Arrest 

It is important to note that security guards don’t actually possess any more legal powers than anyone else; they are simply employed by a business to help ensure their security. As any member of the public, security guards can make a citizen’s arrest under certain conditions. 

A person cannot be arrested unless they’ve committed a crime, or you have reasonable grounds to suspect that they have. This should only be done if arrest by a police officer isn’t feasible. Alternatively, if an arrest is necessary to protect the offenders or suspected offenders. 

In the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, under Section 24A, security guards like any member of the public are allowed to make a citizen’s arrest. If: 

  • The offender is in the act of committing or you have reasonable grounds for suspecting it
  • An offence was committed and the person you are arresting was the culprit
  • You have reasonable grounds for suspecting that the offender has committed the offence 
An arrest is legal if: 

The person making the arrest is doing so because a police officer is not reasonably available to do so. Or, the arrest is necessary to prevent the person from : 

  • Physically injuring them self or others 
  • Suffering physical injury 
  • Damaging or destroying property 
  • Absconding before held accountable for their actions 

Many businesses would face disruption or danger to the public or property if they did not have a security presence. A lawful arrest of offenders is not an easy feat for those without specialist training. Although customer service is a big part of the job, security personnel should be equipped with tools for dealing with hostile situations. The job might become extremely dangerous and difficult in these settings, and an amount of force can occasionally be necessary. 

Protecting your business and customers 

There are many reasons why you might want the services of a security guard. Having the correct security in place for any contentious, or well-publicised event is critical to protecting businesses and the public. This is where Able Investigations can help with our specialist team of SIA approved security guards

If your clients see you went out of your way to protect them, it can leave a lasting positive impression.

The best security solution is to hire SIA-approved security guards. All of the security employed must be properly licenced for the job. This is not only a legal necessity, but it also ensures the service you receive is the greatest possible quality. 

If you need the assistance of specialist security for your situation or event, get in touch with Able Enforcements. You can speak to a member of our team by calling 0845 370 7401, email us or fill in our contact form

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