What is a Citizen’s Arrest?


“Can you be arrested by another civilian?”
“How and when is that allowed?”

These are often questions that are asked by a large majority of people, the situation of performing a citizen arrest is not an everyday event and don’t worry, it’s not supposed to be.

Arresting a citizen is essentially when another civilian restrains and contains another civilian on the grounds that the person they are restraining has committed an illegal act and is a danger to themselves or others.

If you restrain another member of the public, it is important to remember that the detainment must be on reasonable grounds otherwise you could be facing assault and restriction of liberty charges.

People who perform citizen arrests can often be security guards or people working in an areas of criminal activity but do not have the power of a police officer.

When is it OK to Perform a Citizen’s Arrest?

There are of course certain legal guidelines that must be followed if performing a citizen arrest, this can be found in detail under Section 100 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002

A person (other than a police officer) may, without a warrant, arrest a person if:

  • The person is in the act of committing an offence under any Act or statutory instrument; or
  • The person has just committed any such offence; or
  • The person has committed a serious indictable offence for which the person has not been tried. Pursuant to Sub-section 2, a person who arrests another person under this section must as soon as reasonably practical, take the person, and any property found on the person before an authorized officer to be dealt with according to law.

A citizen’s arrest is in most cases considered reasonable if the accused has recently, or is in the process of committing a criminal act

If you’ve just performed a valid restraint of a citizen, it is imperative that the accused are taken straight to a police station where they can be handed over responsibly to the authority of the police.

If it is possible to contact a nearby police officer, that is a better option than restraining the citizen yourself, this action should only be used as a last resort.

What Should I Do Before Performing a Citizen’s Arrest?

Seen someone commit a criminal act and are not sure how to proceed?

Think first, don’t jump into a situation that can be easily be avoided by calling a nearby police officer or that may place your safety or the safety of nearby people in jeopardy.

Police officers have been trained to handle these situations and are more likely to know how to proceed in a safe manner as a matter of experience within the industry, they also have weapons that can be used in hostile and dangerous situations if the occasion arises.

There are also cases where a mental health issue can be a part of the situation and police officers are trained to respond to specialist areas like that as well, it might diffuse what could be a bad situation.

If it is necessary to detain a citizen than you should take the accused and anything found on them straight to the local police station.

There are a few things to keep in mind if performing an arrest:

  • Use only as much physical force as necessary, otherwise it could just be trouble for yourself, if they decide to come quietly, even better!
  • If you are arresting someone under the age of 18 years old, you have a duty of care towards them, which means that if you decide to let them go, they should be only let go to family members or other reputable adults, they are still children after all.
  • When making an arrest, don’t forget to inform the accused of what is happening and why it’s happening, they will need to be given a reason for your actions.

It is important to remember that performing an arrest should be combined with sound reasoning and caution, if there is an option for the police or 000 then take those options instead, a citizen’s arrest should be used as a last resort, not a first thought.

What Can’t I Do in a Civilian’s Arrest?

There are definitely lines that should not be crossed when restraining a citizen and there are a few factors to keep in mind if found in a position to perform an arrest on another public member.

The accused must have been seen performing a criminal activity

Even if the you strongly suspect that there has been criminal activity, you must remember that evidence is necessary to make a valid detainment of a citizen, the police officers will be asking you a lot of questions when you hand the accused in, so you must be sure that you are in the right.

If an arrest is made without any reasonable grounds, the citizen arresting the accused can be at risk of criminal charges for falsely imprisoning and assaulting the citizen, these are serious charges which is why it is strongly recommended that you’ve tried to involve the police if possible before undertaking any actions yourself. A Good attorney will be needed in this case.

There must not be more force than is absolutely necessary

Physical violence is to be avoided as much as possible when arresting another public member, it is acceptable to calmly and firmly restrain the accused, but more force than necessary can land you in a lot of trouble.

Also it is recommended to avoid using angry language as it may add fuel to the fire and infuriate what may have been a mild situation.

Due to all these factors and cautions that are given in this article is quite easy to see why arresting other public members are not always recommended as they can put people in unnecessary danger.

If you do find yourself in a position to perform a citizen’s arrest, remember caution and safety before any actions.

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