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

Anyone involved in security duties, and in particular anyone who may have to use a degree of force during the course of their work, must have a basic working knowledge of the laws and powers with regards to the varying degrees of assault. This basic understanding is essential for door supervisors, so that they can ensure that they use only a reasonable amount of force when necessary, and can act appropriately when witnessing or having to deal with an allegation of assault.

You will, of course, have heard of the term assault and battery.

An assault is defined as any act where a person intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend (fear) immediate and unlawful violence. The definition of battery is where a person intentionally or recklessly applies unlawful force to another person. If force is actually applied unlawfully or without the consent of the person being assaulted, then the assault becomes a battery.

There are various different charges that can be brought against someone who assaults another, depending on the seriousness of the injuries inflicted.

(Sec. 39 Criminal Justice Act 1988)

Common assault is the least serious type of assault, where either no actual injuries are caused, or when the injuries are of only a very minor nature. A push to the body or a slap around the face would come under this category, even though no actual injuries are sustained.

The minor injuries covered by this offence include grazes, scratches, minor bruises, swelling, reddening, black eyes and minor superficial cuts. Even making a threat to assault someone can come under this category.

The offence of common assault is not an indictable offence, but is actionable through either the Magistrates Court by way of the injured party applying for a summons at court, or through the civil courts. The maximum penalty for anyone found guilty of committing such an assault is up to a £5,000 fine or up to 6 months imprisonment.

Door staff have no powers of arrest if they witness a common assault, but can obviously eject the offending customer from the premises. The police can also be called to give the appropriate advice to the victim if required. An arrest for “breach of the peace” may be considered, however, if it is necessary to prevent a more serious assault being committed.

(Sec.47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861)

If the injury sustained as the result of an assault is of a more serious nature, then a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm may be more suitable. This offence covers injuries such as broken or lost teeth, temporary loss of a sensory function such as consciousness, extensive or multiple bruising, minor cuts or minor fractures.

Anyone found guilty of committing a Sec.47 assault can be sentenced with up to a £5,000 fine or 6 month in prison at Magistrates Court, or up to 5 years in prison at a Crown Court.

Because of the possible sentence involved, this offence is an indictable offence and is therefore arrestable for door supervisors.

Doorstaff therefore, have the power to arrest anyone they see committing an assault occasioning actual bodily harm, or anyone they have reasonable grounds to suspect to have committed such an assault.

If, for example, you come across a male repeatedly punching and kicking another person in the premises, and you can see that the victim has sustained multiple cuts and bruises, then you have the power to arrest the assailant and call the police.

SEC. 20 G.B.H.
(Sec.20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861)

“Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously, wound or inflict any grievous bodily harm upon any other person, either with or without any weapon or instrument, shall be liable to imprisonment”.

A more serious offence yet is an assault whereby someone is occasioned grievous bodily harm. Injuries that fall under this section include the permanent loss of a sensory function (coma), visible disfigurement, broken or displaced limbs or bones, substantial blood loss and any injury resulting in lengthy treatment or incapacity.

This offence merely requires an unlawful or malicious act resulting in either a wounding or grievous bodily harm. The maximum penalties are the same for this offence as they are for assaults occasioning actual bodily harm, ie 5 years imprisonment, though sentences are usually harsher because of the nature of the injuries involved.

Similarly it is also an indictable offence, and so door supervisors can detain the offender and call the police.

SEC. 18 – G.B.H. (with intent)
(Sec. 18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861).

“Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously, by any means whatsoever, wound or cause any grievous bodily harm to any person, with intent to do some grievous bodily harm to any person, or with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person shall be liable to life imprisonment

Under this section, the offender has to intend to cause these serious injuries, or intend to resist or prevent the arrest of any person. Although the injuries under this section are the same as in a Sec.20 assault, it is considered far more serious because of the specific intent.

Because of this, the maximum sentence for anyone found guilty of this offence at Crown Court is life imprisonment. This is obviously an indictable offence as well.

(Sec. 14 and 15 Sexual Offences Act 1956)

Both indecent assault on a male and a female carry sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment at Crown Court and 6 months or a £5,000 fine at Magistrates Court. Both are indictable offences.

Indecent assaults are any assaults accompanied by circumstances of indecency on the part of the offender towards the person being assaulted. The word indecent has no legal definition, but its generally accepted meaning is ‘offensive to modesty, impure, obscene or unchaste behaviour in sexual matters’.

It is ultimately for the court to decide whether any particular act is indecent or not, although in most circumstances it will be obvious.

You may be approached at the door, for example, by a very distressed female who alleges that someone inside the premises has indecently assaulted her, by grabbing her breasts. Provided that she is happy for the police to become involved, and can point out the suspect to you, then you have the power to arrest him and hold onto him until the police arrive

Door supervisors should assist the police if they visit the venue or are called to deal with an incident inside. There are two offences relating specifically to police officers that door supervisors need to be aware of.

SECTION 51(1) Police Act 1964
It is an offence for a person to assault a constable in the execution of his duty, or anyone assisting the constable in the execution of those duties.

Any person who resists or wilfully obstructs a constable in the execution of his duty, or anyone assisting the constable in the execution of those duties, commits an offence.

Section 41 Police (Scotland) Act 1967

It is an offence to assault, resist, obstruct, molest or hinder a constable in the execution of his duty, or a person assisting him in the execution of his duty. It is also an offence to rescue or attempt to rescue or assist or attempt to assist the escape of any person in custody.

As a door supervisor working at licensed premises, you will occasionally have to resort to the use of force when carrying out your lawful duties. There are times when the law allows you to use force, such as when ejecting unruly customers who refuse to leave when requested, or in self-defence or in defence of another, or when effecting a lawful arrest or preventing a crime from taking place.

In these circumstances you may use force, providing that such force is reasonable and necessary in those circumstances, and that you do not use more force than is required to effect your purpose and using video footage from a body worn camera can provide very good evidence of the force that was used.

If, having lawfully physically ejected a customer from the premises, you then continue to use force on him, either to “teach him a lesson” or to “stop him trying again”, then you most certainly commit an assault and make yourself liable to arrest.

With regards to door supervisors carrying weapons, any such use of force with a weapon would certainly be an assault and is very likely to lead to arrest and prosecution. The courts would not look kindly on any member of a security team using a weapon to inflict injury on a member of the public.

Door supervisors also have specific powers of arrest to help them deal with assaults that occur on their premises, and should use them when the need arises.

Assault in Scotland can be defined as a criminal attack on the person of another, whether or not actual injury is inflicted.

Any type of assault is a crime under Common Law in Scotland, and so door stewards do have the necessary powers of arrest in most circumstances, particularly when there are serious injuries. Very minor assaults where there is no injury would normally be dealt with by way of ejection.