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Powers of security guards and bouncers

Powers of security guards and bouncers

What powers do security guards and bouncers have over me?

In Western Australia, security guards and bouncers (crowd controllers) are licensed by the Government but they do not have the same powers as a police officer. All security guards and bouncers sign the WA Security Industry Code of Conduct that outlines the responsibilities they have for the provision of security services.

Security guards and bouncers work in two different kinds of places and their powers differ according to where they are working:

  • privately owned places such as shopping centres, fast food shops
  • publicly owned places such as parks, trains and roads.

In privately-owned spaces, such as shopping centres, security guards or bouncers are employed to enforce the rules of the owner. The person who owns the space decides on what the rules will be and the security guard or bouncer enforces them. However, this does not mean that the security guard or bouncer can break the law.

In public places, security guards and bouncers have no greater arrest powers than those of an ordinary citizen.

Usually a security guard must wear a uniform and will not be allowed to carry weapons (firearms or batons) unless prior approval has been given by the regulating body. A bouncer must wear an identification badges and they are not allowed to carry a weapon.

This page does not cover the powers of police, transit officers, court security officers or prison officers. For information about powers of railway police see Powers of railway police. For more information about police powers see: 

Can security officers or bouncers arrest me?

Like any ordinary citizen, a security guard or bouncer has the power to arrest any person who is, or suspected to be, committing an offence punishable by imprisonment. This is called a citizen’s arrest. To do this they must use clear words and touch you. Generally they will put a hand on your arm and say, “you are under arrest.” 

If a security guard or bouncer has a reasonable belief that an offence such as stealing has been committed by you then they can arrest you. You should get legal advice if this happens to you. A security guard or bouncer does not have to wait until you leave the store before arresting you for a suspected stealing offence.  

Do I have to go with a security guard or bouncer when they ask me to?

If the security guard or bouncer has not arrested you, you do not have to stay with the guard or accompany them to the manager’s office or anywhere else.

If you have been arrested under a citizen’s arrest, the security guard or bouncer may detain you for as long as is reasonably necessary for the police to take you into their custody.

The security guard or bouncer may use only reasonable force to detain you. What is reasonable force differs from situation to situation. If more force is used than is reasonable then it may be an unlawful assault.

Do I have to give my name or other details?

You are under no general obligation to give your name, date of birth, address or other details to a security guard or crowd controller.  

However, there are exceptions to this general rule.  They are:

  • where you trespass on property, including where you remain on premises after being asked to leave, the owner or manager can ask your name and address and it is an offence to refuse or to provide false details
  • where an employee of a licensed premise believes you are aged under 18 years, they can ask your age and request identification and it is an offence to refuse without a reasonable excuse or to give false information. If you fail to give this information the authorised person may remove you from the premises with such force as may be reasonably necessary in the circumstances.

You should note that if the police become involved and a police officer requests your name, address and date of birth, you must provide these details and it is an offence to refuse or to give false details. 

Do I have to answer other questions?

You do not have to answer any questions asked by a security guard or bouncer other than in the circumstances noted in the exceptions above. Even if you go with the security guard to the manager’s office or elsewhere, either voluntarily or under arrest, you do not have to answer any other questions. 

Anything you do tell the security guard, crowd controller or other people may be used against you in court.

Can I or my property be searched?

No one except a police officer has the right to search you or your bags, even if a prominent sign states that this is a condition of entry. 

If you do not allow your bags to be checked, you may be denied service and asked to leave the store. Your refusal may also add to any reasonable suspicion that you have committed an offence. This might mean that a security guard has more reason to arrest and detain you until police arrive.

Can I be removed from premises?

Security guards or bouncers are allowed to ask you to leave private premises or functions on behalf of the owner. An employee on licensed premises can refuse entry or remove you from premises for a wide number of reasons.

If you don’t leave when asked to do so, you may be trespassing and the security guard or crowd controller can use reasonable force to remove you from the premises. If more force is used than is reasonable then it may be an unlawful assault.

What is a banning notice?

Shopping centre management, staff and security guards or bouncers can give you a banning notice that may stop you from being in certain places.

You can be banned from a place as long as the ban does not break the anti-discrimination laws. A ban is legal as the business has the right to exclude whoever they want from their private property. If you are banned from a place you should be told this in writing.

There are no rules on how long the ban can be for.

A business owner can only ban you from their own property. If the business owner bans you from being in a public place this may not be lawful. You should get legal advice if you think this applies to you.

If you do not leave when asked or if you come back after being banned you may be charged by the police with an offence. 

Can a copy of my personal identification document be taken?

It is lawful for any licenced premises to take a copy of your personal identification document (for example, driver's licence or passport). This most commonly occurs when you try and gain entry to a nightclub. If the licenced premises takes a copy of your personal identification document they must comply with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

Who do I complain to about the actions of security guards or bouncers?

If you have a complaint about a security guard or bouncer you can complain to:

  • the owner or manager of the premises, for example shopping centre management
  • the security firm who employs the security guard or bouncer
  • your local police, or
  • if you think that the security guard or bouncer has unlawfully discriminated against you, the Equal Opportunity Commission

Last reviewed: 11/06/2013

Last modified: 31/03/2015 10:41 AM


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.