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Retail Security London, UK - FAQ's

Can a shop legally check my bag upon entry?


In the UK, stores can ask customers to have their bags checked as a condition of entry to their private property, but this is not a legal requirement. It is a security measure that some stores implement to deter theft. If a customer refuses to comply with a request to have their bag checked, the store may refuse them entry. (The same as a bar or club may do)



Can i refuse to have my bag checked when exiting a shop?


The short answer is yes a person is entitled to refuse a bag search or search of their person when exiting a store. However if the store staff have followed A.S.C.O.N.E procedures and firmly believe you have stolen products you may be detained and the police called to conduct the search.


Can a security guard touch me?


In the UK, security guards are SIA Licensed and have undergone training that covers physical intervention and conflict management. A security guard is allowed to touch a person if they suspect them of shoplifting, another theft-related offence or to deal with anti-social behaviour or violent conduct that may threaten or endanger other people.


In such circumstances, the guard may use reasonable force to restrain, deter or detain the individual. However, the use of force must be proportionate to the situation and must not cause unnecessary harm. As a general rule of thumb, security guards should try to avoid touching individuals unless it can be proven necessary in the court of law that it was for their own self-defense, for the defense of others or to catch a criminal in the act of committing a crime.


Why can security guards stop shoplifters?

In the UK, security guards have the power to detain individuals suspected of shoplifting or theft-related offenses under the common law right of arrest. This means that they can hold the individual until the police arrive. The purpose of this right of arrest is to prevent individuals from escaping before the police arrive and to preserve evidence that may be relevant to the investigation.


Can you go to prison for shoplifting?

Shoplifting is a criminal offence that can result in a fine, a community sentence, or a prison sentence, depending on the circumstances of the case and the severity of the crime.


If an individual is charged with shoplifting, the court will consider various factors, such as the value of the items stolen, the individual's criminal history, and the impact of the crime on the victim, when determining the appropriate sentence.


For minor cases of shoplifting, a court may impose a fine or a community sentence, such as community service, a curfew, or a rehabilitation program. In more serious cases, the court may impose a prison sentence, especially if the individual has a prior criminal record or if the value of the items stolen is substantial.


It is important to note that a conviction for shoplifting can have serious consequences, including a criminal record and difficulty finding employment in the future. It is recommended that individuals seek legal advice if they have been charged with shoplifting.



Identifying potential shoplifters can be difficult, as they often try to blend in with other customers at busy periods. However, there are some common behaviours that security personnel and store employees may look out for, including:


Wearing large jackets and carrying empty bags: Individuals who are attempting to steal may try to conceal items in their clothing, bags, or other personal belongings.


Avoiding eye contact: Some individuals may avoid eye contact with security and store staff when entering and moving around the store, as this can be a sign of guilt or a lack of trust.


Acting nervous: Shoplifters may exhibit signs of nervousness, such as sweating, fidgeting, or avoiding contact with others.


Distracting behaviour: Some individuals may try to distract store employees by asking questions or seeking assistance, while their accomplices steal items.


Selecting high-value items: Shoplifters may target high-value items, such as electronics, jewellery, or designer clothing, as these can be sold for a higher price.


Going to blind spots in the store: Shoplifters may take garments to blind spots and place them in their bags whilst out of sight from store staff and security guards.


It's important to note that these behaviours can also be exhibited by innocent individuals and should not be used to automatically label someone as a shoplifter. Security personnel and store employees should observe individuals closely and look for patterns of behaviour that are consistent with theft. Any suspicions of shoplifting should be investigated thoroughly and handled in a professional and lawful manner in line with A.S.C.O.N.E procedures.


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