Trespassing Laws

All extracts are taken from the “Safer Doors” book. Published by Geddes and Grossett. Copyright laws apply.

A trespass is committed by a person who is improperly on someone else’s property without consent.

As mentioned earlier, one of your main tasks as a door supervisor at licensed premises is to maintain good order. During the course of your duties you may well have to ask people to leave the pub or club as a result of their behaviour, and as a last resort may have to physically eject them from the premises if they refuse to leave when asked. This section explains your powers to deal with those types of situations.

Trespass is not normally a criminal offence. It is, however, an act of interference against the lawful occupier of any specific premises, and can be actionable through the civil courts. A ‘lawful occupier’ is someone who owns, occupies or has control over the property. In the case of pubs and night clubs it means the manager, owner or licensee of the venue, and includes any members of staff acting on their behalf. This obviously includes the door supervisors, whose job it is to protect the premises.

Licensed premises offer what is called an ‘open invitation’ to members of the public to enter, whether on payment or otherwise, for an evenings entertainment. That invitation, however, may be withdrawn at any time. Door supervisors, acting on behalf of the licensee, have the right in law to refuse admission to anyone whose presence is not welcome. Further to this, customers already on the premises may become trespassers if the invitation to remain is withdrawn and they reuse to leave when asked to.

Door supervisors may ask customers to leave at any stage if they breach any:-

  • criminal laws
  • licensing laws
  • house rules or conditions, or if their behaviour becomes unacceptable.

If a customer’s actions start to interfere with the enjoyment of others, then he should be advised accordingly, and should be given the chance to remain if he behaves himself. If he continues to be a nuisance, or does something which is just unacceptable, then he should be asked to leave.

When asking customers to leave the premises you should first ask them to leave and explain why, telling them what rule they have breached or how their behaviour has become unacceptable. If they refuse to leave you should repeat the request, informing them that if they refuse to leave they will either be physically removed by the door staff, or that the police will be called. If they still refuse to go you should offer them one more chance to leave peacefully by saying something like, “Is there anything else I can say to make you leave on your own?”. This gives them one more opportunity to change their mind, and is also a good defensible statement that other people will hear that shows that you did everything possible to encourage the customer to leave peaceably, before having to resort to the use of force to remove the person from the premises. If you are with another door supervisor it will also warn him that you are about to take action, and will allow him to prepare himself to assist with the ejection. If the customer still refuses to leave the premises, then you will have done as much as can be expected in trying to resolve the situation peacefully, and you will then have to take action and physically remove the trespasser from the premises, via the nearest or safest exit.

You will not always get the chance to go through this procedure prior to ejecting someone, of course. If you come across a fight in progress, for example, you will probably not get the chance to speak to the parties at all. You may simply have to grab a hold of one of the assailants to stop the fight, and then swiftly remove him from the premises. The procedure below should be followed, however, when at all possible. It is, if you like, the ideal way to carry out a physical ejection.

R.E.A.C.T. explains the order of actions to be taken before ejection:-

R- Request him to leave
E- Explain the reasons for the request (drunk, abusive, fighting etc)
A- Appeal for him to leave, explaining what will happen if he does not ( police, physical ejection)
C- Confirm that he still refuses to leave peacefully (“Is there anything ………..?”)
T- Take action (eject)

As a last resort then you may have to physically eject the customer from the premises. The law allows you to do this provided that –

NO MORE FORCE IS USED THAN IS NECESSARY TO REMOVE THE TRESPASSER FROM THE PREMISES.

This means exactly what it says. If all that is needed to remove someone is gentle but persuasive guidance with one arm, then that is all you are entitled to do. If, however, the customer still refuses to leave, then more force will have to be used to effect the lawful ejection. At this point it is usually advisable to obtain the assistance of another door supervisor if possible, firstly to help you with the physical ejection to try to ensure that neither the door staff nor the customer sustain any unnecessary injuries, and secondly to act as a witness in case an allegation of assault is made against you at a later stage. Remember also that it is usually far easier for two door supervisors to physically remove a violent trespasser from the premises without hurting him, than it if for just one to try to do it on his own.

It is also within the licensing laws that police officers are required to assist with ejecting customers who are refusing to leave if requested to do so by the licensee or his employee or agent, and they may use such force as may be required to effect their purpose. This is obviously worth remembering if ever you are working as the only door supervisor at a pub where the manager asks you to remove a group of ten drunks from the premises.

If someone you have ejected becomes violent or attempts to force his way back into the premises, then again you should call the police to assist.

REMEMBER – You should only use these rules of trespass to eject someone from premises over which you have some control. Once the ejected customer is out of the premises and in the street you have no power over him unless he commits a criminal offence and you need to arrest him. If he continues to argue with you, creates a disturbance outside the premises or attempts to physically re-enter, then the police should be called and he will be dealt with accordingly. You could also consider effecting your powers of arrest to prevent the person from causing a ‘breach of the peace’.

If and when you have to eject someone from the premises, then it should be reported to the person in charge of your duty immediately, and to safeguard yourself against any subsequent malicious allegations it should also be recorded briefly in the incident book held near the entrance.

It is obviously always better to try to use tact and persuasion to get the trespasser to leave the premises, only using force as a last resort. Even then you must use no more force than is necessary to remove the person from the premises.

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