All security staff have faced the same question, which at the time they don’t pause to think about the consequences of what is sure to come next.
A fight breaks out between two or three groups of people, they are 10 to 12 in number and it is less than two metres from your premises, someone hits the floor and the pack set on him/her with kicks and stamping or weapons.
What do you do?? Intervene or let that person suffer huge injuries or even lose their life
Most times these decisions occur in milliseconds, The security team step in to save the person and try and stop the fight. You know what happens next? Now your fighting with the whole lot of them.
The fight has stopped, hopefully, none of the security team is injured, then the Police turn up!
First thing that is requested is the CCTV, then they speak to the D.P.S, then they speak to the Head of security, then the local Police Licensing unit arrives and they take over – at this stage they are looking at the conduct of the Security staff and whether or not they went too far, used excessive force etc.
Let us look at common sense and realistic approach, 1. ‘Most security staff’ work this job as the main job, 2. They train hard and keep themselves fit, 3. they train in some sort of martial art, 4. they are sober! The Security team should have come off better and the ones who wanted and started to fight have lost and are now wanting to make a complaint to the Police.
As a member of the public you are permitted to ‘prevent a breach of the peace’ which dates back to 1361., this is a common-law offence and that means that any person can try and stop this and has the power under the law, to do so.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, breach of the peace is descended from the Justices of the Peace Act 1361, which refers to riotous and barratous behaviour that disturbs the peace of the King. More modern authority defines a breach of the peace as “when a person reasonably believes harm will be caused, or is likely to be caused, to a person or in his presence to his property, or a person is in fear of being harmed through an assault, affray, riot, unlawful assembly, or some other form of disturbance”. (Wikipedia)
You are also permitted to defend yourself against an attack (Self defence) or the defence of another. This does not give you the permission to use excessive force, the law has a line and IF you cross it you will find the Police will be glad to help you to the cell!
The right way
There is the question I have been asked so many times and the problem is not just a legal answer it is also ethical and moral. Too many times in my 30 years of working busy venues has taught me a lot of things – but never the right answer to whether or not to tell the security to intervene. I have been told too many times to remember the number by Police Licensing in Merseyside that the Security should ‘NOT LEAVE THE STEP’. ‘Sorry Officer to contradict your ‘request’ but me personally I cannot stand by and see some 18-year-old getting pasted in front of me!’
I would not let a Police Officer take a beating either and to be honest, I would not sleep at night by ignoring this sort of incident, so the suggestion by the Police is sometimes not the best or involving any sort of thought process, what if the same officer dispensing such advice found himself in front of you taking a beating and standing there saying ‘If only I could leave the step’.
I have been called upon as a consultant by a number of venues who have staff that have intervened and then been threatened with prosecution for Affray and assaults and have to explain that this is all about ‘excessive use of force’ and if it helps one person to read this and keep out of trouble then this post was worth it!
Self-defence – The SECOND that the attacker has backed away or is under restraint on the floor or upright then YOU CAN NOT KEEP HITTING HIM/HER. IF you hit them just once more you CANNOT use self-defence, this becomes an assault by YOU. You can only use sufficient force to stop the attack on you or another person that’s it plain and simple.
The same applies to the incident we made up!! Earlier, once they are not fighting with you or others, or you restrain the person then that is the end of the power you have, you can’t ‘punish’ the person and that is when it takes the control and professionalism that you should show and lets face it if a sober highly trained member of security can’t restrain a drunken 18-year-old without punching him then I would have them consider a different career!
There is no linear line here on this subject, even the High Courts cannot give a definitive answer to what is excessive force, so to try and give some understanding, iF you are trying to take down a fully trained SAS officer in his prime then you would need to use more force than on an 18 year old 10 stone wet student? That is the best analogy – Be professional and treat each person as if they were your little brother or sister.