Police monitoring group offers guidance on the role of security guards at anti-fracking protests

Security guard

Anti-fracking campaigners who are filmed by security guards outside oil andgas sites can apply to obtain copies of footage held on them, according to a new briefing.

The document, published this week by the policing monitoring group Netpol, said private security guards were commonly used to try to prevent protest. They often recorded protesters on their phones as “a form of intimidation”, the group said.

But filming in public spaces is subject to legislation and security companies must properly secure and retain any data they acquired.

NetpolNetpol said this sort of filming, known as “public space surveillance”, is covered by the Data Protection Act 1998. Companies that gathered, used and retained personal data must register as a data controller with the Office of the Information Commissioner, it said.

The group advised people taking part in protests:

“If you think you have been under surveillance, you can apply to the security company to obtain a copy of data held about you. “This known as a ‘data protection subject access request’.

To make a request, campaigners need to know the company the security personnel filming you are employed by.

Security guards

The briefing said most security guards are licensed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) and their roles are covered by the Private Security Industry Act 2001. They must wear their licence and failure to do so is a breach of the licence condition. Complaints can be made to the SIA, Netpol said.

Under civil trespass law, security guards acting for landowners can use reasonable force to remove people from land or property to prevent damage or protect safety.

Netpol said security guards may often be “almost indistinguishable from police” but they have no more legal power than any other member of the public, including making a citizens’ arrest.

Reasonable force can include handcuffs or other forms of restraint. It can be used by security guards:

  • To prevent a crime
  • To prevent risk of injury and damage to property
  • To remove trespassers from private property if they are acting as agents of the owner
  • If they have a reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed
  • If they suspect someone of an indictable offence such as criminal damage which is serious enough to be considered at a Crown Court
  • If they believe the person is likely to escape before police arrive

Extra powers

According to Netpol’s briefing, Chief Constables can give people working in security roles limited powers under Community Safety Accreditation Schemes. These powers are for “combatting crime and disorder, public nuisance and other forms of anti-social behaviour.

Staff working under these schemes can:

  • issue penalty notices,
  • require the name and address of a person who has committed certain offences or acted in an anti-social manner.

The briefing also covers the role of bailiffs and high court enforcement officers.

Link to briefing

Netpol Briefing on Private Security


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