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Reasonable Force In The Private Security Industry

SIA licensed security staff can use reasonable force to protect themselves other people or property. Reasonable Force is associated with defending against violence and theft. It can be used as a defence in criminal proceedings or to defend yourself from being sued in a civil law suit.


Security personnel such as door supervisors, security guards, Close protection officers frequently use conflict management and sometimes physical intervention is necessary to diffuse potential incidents. If one uses excessive Force, more than is reasonable in the circumstances they may lose that write to defence or prosecution.

Proportional force does not require officers to use the same type or amount of force as the subject. The more immediate the threat and the more likely that the force will result in serious injury or death, the greater the level of force that may be proportional, objectively reasonable, and necessary to counter it.

The main test in relation to whether you have used reasonable force is if the Force used was reasonable necessary and proportionate.

The private security industry often works with public authorities, for instance, a local council may contract security guards to patrol their shopping centre – and when that happens the employees of the private security company are bound by the Human Rights Act directly too.

Even where there is no direct obligation on the private security industry to comply with the Human Rights Act, it is considered good practice by the industry to try and apply the basic principles in any case.

SIA Security operatives have an individual responsibility for ensuring that they are aware of relevant legislation, and are informed about the extent of their legal powers and the context within which those powers can be properly exercised.

Remember: Security Operatives Do Not Have Any Statutory Powers Of Arrest!

Human rights legislation

In the UK the main source of human rights law is the Human Rights Act (1998). This brings into UK law the European Convention on Human Rights.

The aim of the legislation is to set out the rights of every citizen which can only be interfered with by the State in closely defined circumstances.

Some of the most relevant rights as far as the private security industry is concerned are:

The State can interfere with these rights only if specific exceptions apply. For instance, it would be lawful to take someone’s life if it were reasonable and necessary in self-defence or making a lawful arrest. 

The State also has what is called a ‘positive’ obligation to protect an individual’s rights against actions by another citizen (for example, to do all that it reasonably can to prevent one citizen taking the life of another). 

Some rights, such as Articles 8, 10 and 11, are called ‘qualified’ rights because the State is allowed to make a judgement on whether interference is necessary for more general reasons such as the prevention of crime or the maintenance of public order. In these cases the State must be able to show that the interference was: 

Proportionate – not excessive for the purpose
Legal – permitted by law
Accountable – the State is able to fully account for and explain its actions Necessary – there was no alternative means of achieving the purpose 

These requirements are often referred to by the mnemonic ‘PLAN’. 

Public authorities, such as the police, the courts, national government departments and agencies, local councils, HM Revenue and Customs are always bound by the Human Rights Act in all that they do. 


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