Can retail security detain you?

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If you commit a crime in front of the police, you can expect to be detained and put under arrest – especially if you are a danger to yourself or others.

But what might happen if a criminal was to be caught in the act in a shop?

Can retail security staff detain them?

Can you be put under arrest by retail security?

Simply put, yes.

But as retail security doesn’t have the same powers as the police, they can only restrain and place wrongdoers under a citizen’s arrest under very particular circumstances while they wait for the emergency services to arrive and take over.

What is a restraint?

A restraint is used to control the actions or behaviour of someone else by force.

It can be used to stop someone from doing something harmful to themselves or others, especially if that person is being physically violent.

However, restraints must be used with care and only if absolutely necessary, as issues in the past decade across the world, especially in the US, have demonstrated – as they can result in death and prosecution if used incorrectly.

When can retail security detain you?

There are two main parameters under which a citizen’s arrest and restraints can be used, one of which is the situation itself.

To ensure that a citizen’s arrest is necessary, retail security staff must ensure that the accused is committing one (or more) of the following crimes –  as outlined in section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, known as PACE in shorthand. 

These crimes are deemed serious, would be tried in a Crown Court, and include:

  • Anyone attempting to escape before a police officer can take responsibility for them
  • Assault – to themselves or others
  • Burglary
  • Criminal damage – if over £5,000
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Terrorism
  • Trafficking
  • Rape

The second, and final, factor that informs the use of citizen’s arrest and restraints is the use of “reasonable force”.

Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 explores reasonability in terms of force, but it unfortunately woolly:  

A person may use such force as is reasonable in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders…[…]

As long as retail security staff focus on the reasonableness of the force used in restraints and have a justifiable reason for doing so, a restraint is deemed legal.

However, as reasonable force has no legal definition and is entirely subjective, all security staff must bear in mind that there is an extremely fine line between legal restraint and prosecutable assault charges.

Looking for legally competent, SIA-trained retail security?

With experienced, well-trained, professional retail security staff on the books, Double Check Security can help if you need a bespoke package for your establishment.

Whether you need a handful of staff or multiple teams of retail security professionals, for businesses big or small – we can help.

To enquire or get a quote,  you can call us on 020 3794 8182 or email us and we’ll be in touch to see how we can help.