Security Guards and the law of self-defence
Security officers play a significant role in maintaining law and order within the community.
Similar to police, your responsibilities can include:
- investigating and apprehending a person suspected of committing an offence
- ejecting a violent or disruptive person from private or public premises
- safeguarding a property, establishment and the public from anti-social, aggressive, violent and often, criminal behaviour.
Yet, unlike the police, powers granted to a security officer are extremely limited.
In your role as a security officer, if you carry out actions that are outside the law, even inadvertently, you may find yourself the subject of criminal charges or questioned regarding your response to a volatile situation.
Human nature and instinct can sometimes interfere with judgement and acting in compliance with professional training; often a result of fear or panic.
The law is very complex in this area. We have tried to explain it below.
If you have an issue call an ADLA lawyer straight away on 1300 331 331 and get some initial advice.
What is the law?
Section 10.4(2) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code states the following:
A person carries out conduct in self-defence if, and only if, he or she believes the conduct is necessary:
- to defend himself or herself or another person; or
- to prevent or terminate the unlawful imprisonment of himself or herself or another person; or
- to protect property from unlawful appropriation, destruction, damage or interference; or
- to prevent criminal trespass to any land or premises; or
- to remove from any land or premises a person who is committing criminal trespass.
meaning that a person shall not be criminally responsible for an offence if their actions are conducted in self-defence, in the belief that the conduct was necessary.
In comparison, state legislation regarding self-defence varies by jurisdiction. In general terms:
You should only use whatever force is necessary based on the situation and circumstance.
As a security officer, it is more probable that you could be in a situation where you would use force or be confronted by a physical attack whilst fulfilling your duties – and become the subject of a criminal investigation.
Using the defence of Self Defence
As stated in the case of Zecevic v DPP (Victoria) 162 CLR 645, a defence of self defence is determined by:
The relevant test is whether the individual believed on reasonable grounds that it was necessary in the circumstances to defend him/herself in the way in which he/she did.
This test is based on two elements:
- The individual must have believed at the time that he/she committed the relevant act, that what he/she was doing was necessary.
This is known as the “subjective element”
- That belief must have been
based on reasonable grounds.
This is known as the “objective element”
What do you do?
If you find yourself in a police interview, remain clear and focused.
Knowing your rights and how a security officer should act within the law is the first step.
You should also seek legal advice from law experts such as member firms of the Australian Defence Lawyers Alliance. ADLA firms understand the law as it applies to the security industry and your rights as a security professional.
Contact ADLA on 1300 331 331.
Written by Doogue O’Brien George Lawyers (ADLA’s representative firm in Victoria). This article does not amount to legal advice, which you only receive when you have a discussion with a lawyer who is engaged on your behalf.