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Door supervisors - Use of force

Posted on May 31, 2017 at 5:20 AM



Civil and Criminal Law and The Use of Force

Door supervisors are not above the law and have no special powers when carrying out their duties. You need to be aware of the law and to work within it.

Laws are binding rules of conduct imposed by the government and enforced through the courts

The main laws in England and Wales are:

  • Civil law - relates to less serious matters such as trespass and disputes
  • Criminal law - relates to more serious matters and comes from the following two sources:
  • Common law - comes from the customs and traditions of the people over many years (not from legislation)
  • Statute law - laws passed by Parliament and given Royal Assent

Types of Assault

  • There are several types of assault in England Wales:
  • Common assault - no real physical injury 
  • Actual bodily harm (ABH) - moderate physical injury (usually of a temporary nature)
  • Grevious bodily harm (GBH) - serious physical injury (GBH and ABH can include 'with intent')
  • Assault on a police officer - regarded as a more serious assault
  • Racially aggravated assault - assault which is accompanied by racial abuse or which is racially motivated
  • Indecent assault

Use of Force

The Criminal Law of 1967 (section 3) states that:

  • 'Any person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of a crime or in the effecting (or assisting in) the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or persons unlawfully at large.'
  • Common law states that if a person has an honest upheld belief that they or another is in imminent danger, then they may use as such force as is reasonable or necessary to avert that danger.
  • Using too much force in the past has given door supervisors a bad name and reputation.
  • If you use more force than is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances you may face a prosecution for assault.

If you have to use force you need another member of staff to assist you in order to:

Provide a witness.

Prevent injury to yourself and the customer. Single person techniques(such as the full-nelson hold, choke holds or head-locks) are inherently dangerous and pose increased risk of serious injury to the customer. To read about the consequences of a single-person (full-nelson)intervention with horrific consequences for the customer and a four year jail sentence for the door supervisor, see the case of Andrew Lee. Remember, you may have to justify any use of force in court ... and there are lawyers who make a dedicated business of pursuing assault claims against door supervisors on a no-win-no-fee basis.

Your authority does not go beyond the door of the licensed premises. While you might be responsible for assisting with ingress, egress and the monitoring of queues outside your venue, your authority to refuse entry, evict customers etc comes from acting as an agent on behalf of the licensee and that authority only applies within the boundaries of those licensed premises, not beyond.

The Court Decides

The use of force is an area where you need to use your own judgement and professionalism. Personal integrity is an important quality required for door supervisors who are entrusted with looking after public safety (one of the four Licensing objectives of the 2003 Licensing Act).

One of the reasons the SIA was introduced to regulate and license front-line personnel working in the private leisure and security industry was to reduce the criminality and aggression which existed previously in some quarters on the doors.

For the professional modern-day door supervisor, the ability to recognise and defuse problems and issues before they become conflict situations is essential. Being alert and observant at all times (for example, assessing customers as they enter the premises then monitoring customer behaviour inside the venue)is a key part of the job, as is offering excellent customer service and professionalism to the public. After all, the private leisure and security industry is highly competitive -we want our customers to have faith in the professionalism in door staff, to have a safe and enjoyable experience and to return to our venues.

A court will decide whether any force used was reasonable and necessary in the circumstances. Before you use force you need to consider all the alternatives, including where practicable, leaving the situation.

Clearly there are times when as a door supervisor you will have no alternative but to use force. If you do have to use force, the force you use should be minimal, proportionate to the threat you face and no more than is reasonable and necessary in the particular circumstances.

Chose a reputable training provider for your classroom-based door supervisor training. Once you are working as an operative, always remember your conflict management training (use dynamic risk assessment and the SAFER approach to keep risk to a minimum) and your communication skills before resorting to using force and don't get drawn into disputes with customers where you may start to lose your objectivity. You need to have self-awareness too. Think about what makes you irritable and short-tempered: tiredness, hunger and so on can all affect how you respond to customers in a potentially threatening situation. You need to develop self-awareness and take steps to ensure you stay fit, alert and professional while you are working.

If you do have to use force think about how other people (for example, a judge and jury!) would see it and ask yourself the following questions:

Is there a need to use any force at all (for example, can I talk the customer out of the door?)

Is the person threatening to use any weapons?

How does the person compare to me in terms of gender, size, build, age?

Since June 2010 all new door supervisors have had to be trained in physical intervention skills which teaches them the skills needed to escort customers safely from premises.

Always log any use of force in your personal notebook and the Security Incident Logbook.

The Consequences

The consequences of using too much force (apart from the potential injury caused to the customer) are:

Accusations of assault

Police investigation

Possible prosecution and criminal record

Bad reputation for you and your company

Loss of job and income

Categories: Door Supervisor

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