Powers of security guards

For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, you can contact us here.

Security guards and bouncers are not police officers, and they do not have the same powers as the police. Find out what powers a security guard has below. 

Navigate this page

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 and bouncers in Western Australia are required by law to obtain a license.

Security guards are 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.

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 owners’ rules requiring you to consent to searches. If you don’t consent then you might be refused entry or asked to leave.

If a security guard at a licensed venue reasonably suspects you are trying to use a fake ID, they may confiscate it.

Can they arrest me?

A security guard, just like any other member of the public, can make a citizen’s arrest. A security guard or bouncer can arrest you if they reasonably suspect that you have committed a crime or are in the middle of committing a crime.

It does not matter if you were innocent and did nothing wrong, provided that the security guard’s suspicion was reasonable at the time. 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 must also state the reason for the arrest. This is so that you know why you’re are being arrested. But there is no technical or precise language that the guard needs to use to do this.

What happens after you are arrested?

If a security guard or bouncer arrests you, they must either arrange for a police officer to attend, or take you to a police officer as soon as possible. The security guard or bouncer can detain you until the police officer arrives or you are taken to the police.

Once you are in contact with the police, they will decide whether to arrest you or whether you are free to go.

If a citizen’s arrest has been done properly, it will be a lawful use of force, and the arrested person is not allowed to resist. But a lawful citizen’s arrest could become unlawful if excessive force was used by the bouncer or security guard.

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 a citizen’s 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.

Can a security guard kick me out of a shopping centre or a shop?

A security guard can ask you to leave, if you fail to do so, you’ll be guilty of trespassing. They are allowed to ask your name and address, you must answer.

The penalties for entering into a place without the permission of the owner, or remaining after being asked to leave, are large fines and potentially even a prison sentence.

A bouncer can ask to see identification proving that you’re over 18. That goes for any licensed premises, not just pubs and clubs. If you refuse to show them your id, or you’re under 18, a bouncer may use reasonable force to remove you from the premises.

Can I 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’re received a banning notice, please contact us here and we can give you more information on what your options are.

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 might, in some cases, be able to sue the security guard or shop owner for assault or false imprisonment.

You can also make a complaint to the Commissioner if you believe a security guard or bouncer has done the wrong thing. You can call them on (08) 9216 3900 or visit: http://www.eoc.wa.gov.au/complaints-inquiries/making-a-complaint

Got a question you can't get answered?

If you have a problem or a question, you can send it to us today and we can provide you with free advice, information and referrals to help solve your problem. Just click on the button below.

Get help now

Select Your State or Territory

The law is different in each state and territory. Please select your state or territory to view legal information that applies to you.