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Many people are unsure about exactly what powers security personnel have.

But, although not widely known, the legislation governing security guards and doormen is clear. In this article, we’re going to give you the lowdown on what powers security guards have.


SIA Licensing

Individuals in the UK must have a Security Industry Authority (SIA) license if they are working in an active security role in the UK. Anyone employed as a security guard who does not have an SIA license is breaking the law (as are their employers).

The SIA is an independent government body responsible for regulating the private security industry. SIA licensing is designed to ensure that only “fit and proper” people can work as a security guard.

The SIA licensing process requires applicants to meet certain criteria. These include being over 18 years old, holding the relevant qualifications, having an appropriate criminal record, being allowing to legally work in the UK and being medically fit.

There are two types of SIA licence:

A front line license is required by everyone carrying out a licensable role – including doormen, security guards, CCTV operators, etc. A front line license takes the form of a credit card-sized plastic card that is worn in a visible location on the licensed individual.

A non-front line license is required for those who manage, supervise or employ individuals carrying out a licensable role. Those who have a non-front line SIA license are not permitted to carry out licensable activities. A non-front line license is issued in the form of a letter.

Due to the nature of their role, security guards may need to employ physical interventions in certain situations. Such interventions are designed to enable security staff to deal with emergencies in a safe and responsible way, without violating individual rights or putting people in undue danger.

Since 2010, every individual with a front line security license is required to undergo physical intervention training.

So, what is physical intervention?


What Is Physical Intervention?

Physical intervention is a means of preventing or restricting a person’s freedom of movement either directly or indirectly. As such, this includes things such as:

Directly blocking an egress

Physically restraining a combative person

Redirecting by pushing, pulling or steering

Physically carrying a person to another location

Other actions are covered by the term “physical intervention”. But the overarching theme is that physical intervention is the use of physicality or force in order to maintain security and safety.


When Is Physical Intervention Appropriate?

Making use of physical intervention techniques may be necessary in order to diffuse potentially volatile situations or to put a stop to violence that is already taking place. However, it is not something that good security guards take lightly.

Here are a few examples of situations in which physical intervention may be necessary:

Theft prevention – A retail security guard may be forced to employ physical intervention techniques when a thief is not cooperating, or is attempting to leave a premise with stolen goods on their person.

Crowd control – Crowds can become dangerous if people begin pushing or shoving one another. To prevent a potentially dangerous situation arising, security staff may employ physical intervention strategies to keep members of the public safe.

Intoxicated individuals – Security personnel working in pubs, bars and restaurants regularly need to deal with intoxicated individuals. When a situation has the potential to become violent, security staff may need to use physical intervention to ensure everyone remains safe.

The SIA has issued a leaflet that details the correct use of physical intervention for doormen. This highlights some of the issues that security staff need to consider when confronted with a situation that may require physical intervention.

This includes alternatives to physical intervention, including primary controls (such as the correct use of safety and security equipment) as well as secondary controls (such as conflict management and de-escalation strategies).

It’s also important to remember that those employing physical intervention have a responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone involved. This requires anyone using physical intervention to maintain a duty of care to those they are restraining and to provide medical attention to any person who appears injured or at risk.

In short, SIA licensed security guards do have the right to use physical interventions when they encounter a situation which requires it. However, they must only use such techniques as a last resort and are responsible for the welfare of those they deploy them on.


Powers of Arrest

Another question that many members of the public have is whether security guards have powers of arrest.

Security personnel are not awarded any additional powers over the general public in terms of powers of arrest. That said, in certain situations, security guards may perform a citizen’s arrest. In fact, those working in the security industry are amongst the most likely to carry out this kind of arrest.

The law surrounding citizen’s arrests is very complicated. The law states that:

Any person can arrest a person who is in the act of committing an indictable offence or

Anyone whom he reasonably suspects to be committing such an offence, if:

◦ it is not reasonably practicable for a constable to make the arrest instead and

◦ it is necessary to arrest the person for one of the below reasons:

To prevent the person in question:

      • causing physical injury to himself or any other person

      • suffering physical injury

      • causing loss of or damage to property

      • making off before a constable can assume responsibility for him.

As such, it’s important to understand what an indictable offence is. An indictable offence is an offence that can be tried at Crown Court. This includes theft, burglary and criminal damage. Since security staff are more likely than most to encounter such crimes – and are likely to know how to perform a citizen’s arrest – it is not uncommon for security personnel to carry out such arrests.

If a security guard chooses to perform a citizen’s arrest, they need to consider several factors. This includes the use of reasonable force, the possibility of recriminatory potential for civil litigation and the avoidance unnecessary danger.

Churchill Security is a leading UK security guard company. We work with companies across a wide range of industries, deploying highly-trained, SIA-licensed security guards and expert security solutions to ensure that our clients’ property is properly protected.

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John Melling is a Director for Churchill Security Ltd. John is a highly motivated, determined and decisive security industry professional. Drawing on his extensive experience gained within the security industry whilst working on the coalface John has operated at all levels within the industry. He has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.