5 Jun 2015
Bouncers and security guards often look and behave like police but their ability to make arrests or use force is actually no greater than any other citizen.  Their role is to prevent disturbances and injury at privately owned licensed venues.  When crowd controllers use excessive force or make unnecessary arrests they are committing a criminal offence.  Citizens should know their rights and know who to complain to about violent security personnel.
Serious assaults occurred during celebrations at Ascot on Melbourne Cup Day and at the Crown Casino on New Years Eve.  During large celebrations there are always a few who overindulge and end up ejected from venues.  In order to ensure patron’s safety strict rules govern what crowd control measures are required at licensed venues and large events.  Not all injuries are preventable, but sometimes overzealous bouncers actually cause the injuries or else ineptly stand by without acting to prevent harm.   It is good to know what your rights are, what directions from security staff you must comply with and who to complain to when things go wrong. 
At Ascot a young man was placed under arrest by security guards on Melbourne Cup Day.  Instead of escorting him to the exit the two large security staff held his arms behind his back and then used their combined weight to force him head first onto the concrete.  Unable to break his fall he suffered a serious concussion and his head was split open in a bloody mess.  
CCTV footage from the entrance to the five star Crown Entertainment Complex in the early hours of New Years Day shows a western suburbs father of two asking staff at the concierge desk to call him a cab.  In a sickening and unprovoked attack a group of men police suspect may be part of an outlaw motorcycle gang can be seen to approach the man, punch him in the head twice and then bite off half his ear lobe.  The whole incident occurred directly in front of staff and within arms reach of security personnel who failed to intervene during the attack or attempt to arrest the men who casually walked from the scene.
Both men mentioned above suffered severe facial injuries that could have been avoided if security had done their jobs properly and both are pursuing compensation for negligence from the owners of the venues through HHG Legal Group. 
Although crowd controllers owe patrons a very important duty of care they do not have any special powers of arrest and are not allowed to be armed with any kind of weapon or search a person without their consent.  Just like any other citizen security personnel can use reasonable force to prevent the commission of a criminal offence and – just like any other citizen – they can only arrest someone who has or is committing a serious criminal offence.  
Behaving in a disorderly manner is not a serious offence but trespassing or assaulting another person is.  If a patron is arrested police must be called to attend immediately – no exceptions – and a person under citizens arrest can only be released to police.  This ensures that security personnel cannot use arrest as a deterrent or punishment.  If someone refuses to leave a premises when directed to do so they will be trespassing and can be lawfully removed with reasonable force. 
If you are injured or subjected to unreasonable treatment by a crowd controller you can complain to police.  All CCTV footage is required to be kept for 28 days so it is important to file your complaint as soon as possible after the incident so that police can review the footage as part of their investigation.  If excessive force was used or if you were unnecessarily placed under arrest the security guards could be charged with assault or unlawful detention.  Even if no charges are laid or you were injured by another patron you may be eligible for compensation and should consult a lawyer.  
The West Australian Police control who is licensed to be employed as a crowd controller and all applicants must have completed an approved training course, not have a criminal record and be of good character.  If the police become aware that a licensed crowd controller has conducted themselves ineffectively or unlawfully their license can be revoked or suspended.  
Venues and events are licensed on condition that there will be adequate crowd control to ensure the safety, health and welfare of patrons.  The Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor issue licenses and consider events or premises that provide live entertainment, attract large numbers of people or trade late at night and into the early hours of the morning to be high risk.  A license imposes specific conditions in relation to crowd control strategies to deter, detect, delay and respond to anti-social behaviour and crime that puts the safety, health or welfare of people at risk.  Whenever an assault or arrest occurs at a licensed venue it must be recorded in an incident log.  A liquor license can be reviewed or revoked when serious breaches that compromise the health and safety of patrons occur.   If you are concerned about ineffective or overzealous crowd control at a particular venue you can notify the Department of Racing Gaming and Liquor or the Minister for Racing and Gaming.  
This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.

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