Bouncers and security guards are a common sight in every city in Australia, particularly if you are out on busy Friday and Saturday nights.
While bouncers and security guards are employed by pubs and clubs to ensure the safety of patrons, do they have powers to remove you from a venue and, if so, how far do these powers extend?
Police and security guards are two very different things
While you are out and about this long weekend, bear in mind that bouncers and security guards at nightclubs, pubs, festivals and supermarkets are not police and they do not have the same powers of arrest, search or detainment as the police do.
Security guards or bouncers working in private premises are employed by owners to protect customers, staff and property and to ensure that conditions of entry are met. The presence of bouncers is to promote an environment of safety for all persons enjoying the venue.
Bouncers and security guards cannot request your personal information, such as your name, phone number or address. They also may not search you without your permission.
They can, however, request your ID to determine your age if, for example, a condition of entry is that you are over 18 years of age.
Can they kick me out of a venue?
Much like your own home, privately-owned venues have a legal right to remove you if you fail to follow conditions of entry. If you do not leave, you may be trespassing.
Security guards and bouncers may use reasonable force to eject you from a venue and to control a situation that is escalating. Their use of force, however, must be reasonable in the circumstances and must stop once you are removed from the premises. They may, for example, place their hands on your shoulders to guide you out a venue, but they may not assault, shove, or punch you.
A bouncer also cannot use reasonable force to remove you if they are not within, or immediately outside, the venue or if they are off duty.
Can they detain or arrest me?
Security guards have the same powers of arrest and detainment as an ordinary person.
If you have assaulted someone or caused damage to property, bouncers or security guards may make a ‘citizen’s arrest’ and detain you until police arrive.
The powers that bouncers have to detain you under a ‘citizen’s arrest’ are the same that every Australian has to detain someone they believe on reasonable grounds to be committing or to have just committed an offence.
In Victoria, a citizen’s arrest is defined under the Crimes Act 1958 and provides that a person can arrest someone to ensure they appear before court, to preserve public order, to prevent another offence or for the safety of others.
Reasonable force may be used so long as that force is not disproportionate to the crime. The offender must be taken straight to police or a court of law. Similar laws exist in other states and federally.
What if they just don’t like the “look” of me?
Bouncers have the right to refuse you entry according to the venue’s conditions of entry. If you appear too intoxicated, this is one situation in which you may rightly be refused entry.
Anti-discrimination legislation also applies to clubs, pubs, restaurants and other such premises in the provision of goods, services and facilities.
State and territory anti-discrimination laws, as well as national legislation, provide that you cannot be discriminated against or refused entry on the basis of your race, gender, age, sexual orientation or disability.
The Australian Human Rights Commission can hear and investigate complaints regarding discrimination, harassment and bullying.
What if I am assaulted or verbally abused by a bouncer?
If a security guard or bouncer has physically, verbally or sexually assaulted you, there are steps you can take to report it or to make a complaint.
- Record the bouncer’s name and ID number
- Record the names and contact details of any witnesses.
- Go to the hospital to get your injuries assessed, and to have the injuries recorded by a medical professional for evidence. If you are able, take photos of your injuries.
- Report the assault to police.
- If you were intimidated or experienced verbal abuse or threats, you can complain to the venue and to the relevant Licensing Authority.
- If you, or someone you know, has been sexually harassed or assaulted by a bouncer or security guard, record that bouncer’s name and ID number. You can use this information to make a complaint to their employer and to the relevant Licensing Authority.
You may also wish to seek legal advice from a Community Legal Centre or Legal Aid in your state or territory.
*this article is based on Victorian legislation.