What Are Your Rights When Carrying Out A Citizen's Arrest?

When the situation calls for a crateload of justice, what's the legal situation?

As reports of multiple people being stabbed in Sydney’s CBD flooded news feeds, busy streets went into lockdown and social media went into overdrive.

And even as the full story unfolded we saw the footage of the alleged assailant being pinned down by members of the public with chairs and a milk crate until the police arrived.

Which immediately raised a bunch of questions. For example: while you might enthusiastically applaud the actions of the brave people who restrained the man, is it legally permissible?

Could they be also be charged? Actually, what happens if I crate someone in the street myself?

And these questions have answers.

Can you even carry out a citizen’s arrest in NSW?

Short answer: yes.

The longer answer is in Section 100 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002: “Power of other persons to arrest without warrant”.

(1) A person (other than a police officer) may, without a warrant, arrest a person if:

(1) A person (other than a police officer) may, without a warrant, arrest a person if:

(a) the person is in the act of committing an offence under any Act or statutory instrument, or

(b) the person has just committed any such offence, or

(c) the person has committed a serious indictable offence for which the person has not been tried.

(2) A person who arrests another person under this section must, as soon as is reasonably practicable, take the person, and any property found on the person, before an authorised officer to be dealt with according to law.

…so the people that crated that fellow up were acting within the law to carry out a citizen’s arrest.

Today, we are all crate fans.

But if it turned out that they got the wrong guy (or he’s released without charge) then the person in the crate could sue for unlawful imprisonment or even level assault charges, so you really do want to be pretty confident about the situation.

What can’t you do?

Anything other than detain them until the police arrive, really. You don’t have the right to search them or their property, and you have to ensure that the person is detained but safe. More on that in a second.

The police would also rather you didn’t do citizen’s arrests for the most part, since the chances of you or someone else being hurt in the process are pretty high and on balance they’d rather you didn’t make things more complicated. That includes legally, as you’ll see.

Are you liable if the person you’re detaining gets hurt?

Yes. You have a duty of care for the person you’ve detained, exactly as the police do, and can only use “reasonable force” which is a hard thing for a citizen to estimate – which is another reason why the police don’t like people doing arrests.

Detained people can – and do – sue for civil damages or even allege criminal assault, so it’s a high risk strategy.

Oh, and if you carry out a citizen’s arrest you also have a duty of care if you let them go before the police arrive – so if you do detain someone, commit to doing so until the authorities arrive.

Police Can Film Your Strip Search - In Fact, They're Ordered To

It's not just legal, it's standard procedure.

In a somewhat disquieting piece of news, it turns out that the police can absolutely film your strip search – and, in fact, are ordered to do so.

This was a finding from a Freedom Of Information request from the Redfern Legal Centre, reported by the Guardian.

More specifically, the officer doing the strip searching shouldn’t have their body camera on – but a support officer should be present and have their camera on.

The FOI request followed reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that there were no clear guidelines for what circumstances warranted a strip search and the officers were taking it on themselves to decide without any other authorisation.

The document makes clear that people should have their privacy respected when police film their strip search, but that “A person’s privacy is not a sufficient reason to cease filming a strip search conducted in the lawful execution of an officer’s duty.”

“Standard operating procedures also ensure resulting footage cannot be seen by people without a lawful right to do so and that there is no unnecessary recording of a person’s private parts,” a spokesperson for NSW police said.

So you know, the police are determined that the nudity should be… what, tasteful?

And it’s understandable why this is required, as much for the stripping-person’s protection as any potential evidential reason.

However, we live in a time when police are being castigated for accessing people’s metadata without authorisation, as well as assisting pals to hunt down their ex-partners escaping domestic violence.

And in any case, the idea of the cops having nudie footage of people with zero recourse feels like a single hack or an accidental (or, for that matter, deliberate) data breach away from being a massive public issue.

And if history is any guide, that should happen in three, two…

A Vain Criminal Sent Police A More Flattering Mugshot And Mate, It's Not That Good

A good self-image is key.

It’s good to feel confident and attractive in one’s own body, but as a rule it’s considered somewhat vain when you’re a criminal that sends police a more flattering photograph of oneself because you don’t care for your mugshot.

Especially when they’re engaged in your manhunt at the time.

A chap named Stephen Murphy is currently on the run in Lincolnshire after failing to show up in court earlier this month.

Unable to locate him, local police took to Facebook to ask if anyone knew his whereabouts, and ran his mugshot as part of said appeal.

However Murphy – who is reportedly also known as Jr V Murphy – took umbrage and what he felt wasn’t a true representation of his powerful sexfulness.

And so he sent the cops a selfie.

It was accompanied by the following instructions:

And if you get my name right and don’t put the worst picture of me on, when I’ve been up for three days in Boston cop shop, you might be able to find me. Post this, it’s better for you.

Stephen Murphy, style icon

And look, we need to have a little talk about his FaceTune game, because that shot is processed to hell. His hairline looks downright shopped, the contrast is all over the place – honestly, maybe sit down with a few tutorials and really get your tune-game honed before goading the police.

In any case, the real lesson for all of us is to ensure that when the police photograph you as part of an arrest, maybe give them three-to-five looks to work with before the shoot so you can get it right first time.

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