A citizen’s arrest is an area of law that most people know of, but not many know about. It can be a tricky and dangerous area of law to involve yourself in, but sometimes a necessary one.
The Law In Queensland
In Queensland, Section 546 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 governs the power for a person to perform an arrest on another person. The section states that any person who finds another committing an offence may arrest another person without a warrant, when an offence has been committed. Alternatively if it is at night, where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person is committing an offence.
This power also extends to breaches of the peace, and to the suppression of a riot (Section 260 and 261).
Cases of Citizens Arrests
In October this year, the case of Utah woman Cindy Simone caught the attention of the media. Simone who stands 5-feet tall and barely weighs 100 pounds announced a citizen’s arrest against two men who she believed had stolen a valuable watch bracelet from her friend’s antique store in September. Surprisingly the two men surrendered without resistance, allowing Cindy to step up and secure their wrists with zip ties. The men sat peacefully on the chairs until police came to pick them up. “We were very good to them; gave them water and a lot of lecturing,” Simone said.
In March this year a Brisbane shopper arrested a man outside of a Bunnings store after the man had allegedly attempted to steal some power tools from the back of his vehicle. The arrested man was later found to be a repeat offender and had taken tools from many other vehicles.
Most recently a citizens arrest in Queensland highlights the potential dangers involved. This month in Cairns an alleged attacker died during a citizens arrest. The man was allegedly acting aggressively towards two women when a male neighbour, who was subsequently assisted by two or three other men, restrained him. The man was then held face down on the ground. It is reported that he resisted and struggled violently but fell silent after a while. When police arrived the man was unconscious. Police performed CPR before he was taken to Cairns Hospital where man was pronounced dead on arrival.
Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said that police are taking the matter very seriously and has stated that those involved in detaining the man face the possibility of being charged over his death.
What To Consider
In Queensland, persons enforcing a citizen’s arrest must observe the following:
- After making a citizen’s arrest, you must deliver the person and any property belonging to the person to a police officer or proper authority without any delay;
- You must only use reasonable force;
- You must not subject the person arrested to embarrassment, indignity, or humiliation; and
- You should be certain that a crime has been committed, and that the person you are arresting is the correct person.
If you are unsure about any of the above 4 points, you should refrain from making an arrest.
Making a citizens arrest can be dangerous, police are trained in detention and arrest techniques that ensure their safety, and the safety of the person being detained. There also exists a risk of confusion when someone other than a police officer detains a person, the person being arrested may lash out violently, be more likely to attempt to escape, or other citizens may even come to the persons aid and attempt to restrain you!
If you use excessive force, you subject yourself to the possibility of being charged by police. Use of excessive force may also subject you to the risk of a civil claim against you.
If you need legal advice on a citizens arrest, have been arrested or charged, or face the possibility of being arrested or charged, you should contact Criminal Lawyers Brisbane on 1300 729 316.