Monday, August 13, 2012
Citizen's Arrests 101
In June 2012, section 494 of the Canadian Criminal Code was changed. The Citizen’s Right of Arrest and Defense of Property law has finally received a long overdue amendment. What does this mean for security guards? Quite a lot actually. Prior to June 2012, a citizen’s arrest could only be made if a civilian caught another civilian in the act of committing a crime. Now, a civilian can arrest another civilian within a reasonable amount of time after a crime has been committed.
As written on the federal Department of Justice website the amendments will include:
“Amendments to the Criminal Code section 494(2) on citizen’s arrest will authorize a private citizen to make an arrest within a reasonable period of time after he or she finds someone committing a criminal offence that occurred on or in relation to property. This expanded power of arrest will only be authorized when there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is not feasible in the circumstances for the arrest to be made by a police officer”
The law still isn’t crystal clear but progress has been made. The Backgrounder done by the Department of Justice also goes on to say:
“A citizen’s arrest is a very serious and potentially dangerous undertaking. Unlike a police officer, a private citizen is neither tasked with the duty to preserve and maintain public peace, nor properly trained to apprehend suspected criminals. In most cases, an arrest consists of either actually seizing or touching a person’s body in an effort to detain them. Whenever possible, a person should report wrongdoing to the police instead of taking action on their own. A citizen’s arrest made without careful consideration of the risk factors may have serious unintended consequences for those involved. When deciding whether to make a citizen’s arrest, a person should be aware of the current laws (see below) and consider whether:
· a peace officer is available to intervene at that time;
· their personal safety or that of others would be compromised by attempting an arrest;
· they should report information about the crime to the police instead of taking action on their own;
· they can turn over the suspect to the police without delay once an arrest is made; and,
· they have a reasonable belief regarding the suspect’s criminal conduct and identity.
It is extremely important to ensure that there is correct identification of the suspect and their criminal conduct. If a citizen’s arrest takes place at the very time a person is found committing a crime, the correct identification of the suspect will not be in question. If a citizen’s arrest takes place within a reasonable time after a person is found committing a crime, the accuracy of the identification can be in question. Stress or the presence of a weapon can negatively affect an eyewitness’s memory. Arresting the wrong person could provoke a violent confrontation, and risk injury or death.”
Basically, the amendments give security guards a wider scope with which to defend the property they are hired to keep secure. A citizen’s arrest is still only one option a security guard has in their arsenal. Always keep abreast of your employers policies regarding Citizen’s Arrests and never do anything you are not comfortable with.
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