Retailer rights

Help for your business

Tips and advice on dealing with someone you think is shoplifting or being fraudulent on your business premises.


Leading Senior Constable Janelle Laing: It may be your business's store policy to conduct bag inspections. You may have clearly marked signs on your front door to ensure your customers are aware of that condition of entry. 

However, upon requesting a bag search of a customer, if they refuse, they aren't actually committing an offence. They don't have to submit to that search. You may then refuse them entry to your store because they're not abiding by your store's conditions. 

To detain a person, you need proof. You must have witnessed the offence occurring. You can apprehend a person whilst they are committing or immediately after having committed an offense. You are not to arrest the person the next day or a week later. Bare in mind, as well, security guards have the same powers as you. They do not have the powers of arrest that police do. But use common sense at all times. If the person becomes violent or aggressive, let them go. Don't detain them. The property can be replaced, and your life cannot. 

Reasonable force is any force used by a reasonable person when faced with the same situation. So in layman terms, that amounts to protecting yourself, life, or property. Not retaliating, not getting back at someone for what they have done. You must be able to show that you were defending yourself, defending the life of another, or defending property at all times. 

When you're detaining a person, there should be a number of steps that are followed. These include informing the offender of your details, informing them exactly why they have been stopped and spoken to, and also that the police will be notified. And of course, contacting police as soon as possible when someone is in your custody.

When you contact police, you will be prompted to answer a number of questions. You'll be asked to supply your name, your exact location, so it may be your street address or an intersecting street, so we can get to you as soon as possible, a return telephone number, the offender's details, if you have them and also the behaviour of the offender at the time.  

Police will decide if they have sufficient evidence to press charges against the offender. They will ask you to supply a witness statement, which will outline exactly what it is that you saw. If the police believe they have sufficient evidence, the person will be charged and put before the court. The matter will go before the court, where the accused will have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. 

If they plead guilty, they will be sentenced. If they plead not guilty, you may be required to attend court and give evidence. Within the state of New South Wales, anyone under the edge of 18 is considered a young person. And in accordance with the Young Offenders Act, we have options in what action can be taken. These are alternative measures. These include warnings, youth cautions, youth conferences, and charges. 


Triple Zero (000) for emergencies or life threatening situations.

Police Assistance Line: 131 444 for non-emergencies.

Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 to provide crime information. You can remain anonymous.

Last updated: Thursday, 11 December 2014