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Festival Survival Guide: Security and Stewards

On site security and stewards - what you should know

The people who work for stewarding and security on site are there to make sure that the event runs smoothly and safely for everybody. When they confiscate things from you they have been told what is allowed and what isn't allowed by the festival organisers - so while we may think it's out of order when they take your things away - it isn't the fault of the person doing the searches. We agree that water should not be confiscated and neither should things that are then found on open sale in the arena - if this is an issue for you there is little you can do at the event - but if you want it to change then put in a formal complaint to the festival organisers and local authority licensing department - it's the only way that things will change.
The workers on site are often poorly paid and may have been working for hours in rotten conditions.

There have, however, been a number of complaints about the behaviour of certain security firms at certain events so we think it's important that you know a few facts and know what to do in the event that you come into conflict with security at a festival or event.

It really is wise to understand from the onset that whatever the rights and wrongs in any given situation these people have the ultimate power - that is - they can eject you from the festival and refuse you admission.

Security and Stewarding personnel will be in proper uniform and they will have clear identification, if you do get into any conflict with them at any time make sure that you make a note of their name and number. If there is conflict try and get contact details of any witnesses.

If you are arrested by security remember that they do not have the power of a police officer - they have the same power that we all have - that is they are using what is known as a 'citizens arrest'

The legal position on the issue of arrest, detention, the use of handcuffs and batons according to the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) is thus:

Arrest - this is covered under what is popularly referred to as 'common law' or 'citizens arrest' effectively it is addressed under any person powers - there are two 'any person powers' and these are:

1. Any person may arrest, without warrant, anyone who is committing, or whom they have reasonable grounds to suspect is committing an "arrestable offence". (Note the term arrestable offence)
Where an "arrestable offence" has been committed any person may arrest without warrant, anyone who is guilty, or whom they have reasonable grounds to suspect is guilty of an offence.

2. Section 3(1) of the criminal Law Act 1967 states that a person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances, in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders. This power can be used by any person.

In addition to the above where you have an event on private premises the owners have the right to eject anyone who is causing offence or being a nuisance, again only such force as is reasonable can be used to do so.

This suggests two things -
1. Any person undertaking an arrest must be aware of what constitutes an 'arrestable offence' and
2. Any person undertaking an 'arrest' must also be aware of the law and what constitutes 'reasonable force' - this is not easy - recent cases concerning force used against burglars testifies to the minefield that 'reasonable force' incurs.

Of course - if the security personnel using 'any person power' is overstepping the mark the recipient of their attentions must therefore also be permitted to use their 'any person power' on the security personnel - thus quite a significant dilemma could ensue. However - it strikes us that there is an obvious power imbalance here and it takes quite a brave person to stand up for their rights in a situation where security is out in force, imposing and dressed like members of the SAS.

The use of batons
A baton is an offensive weapon by virtue of Section 1 (1) Prevention of Crime Act 1953, being specifically made for causing injury. Possession of such an item is not an offence where lawful authority exists. i.e. Police Constable on duty authorized by Chief Officer.
Clearly the possession of a baton is illegal - therefore if you observe security personnel in possession of such items we recommend that you take details and report them to the police.

The possession of handcuffs is not prohibited by law. However, use of handcuffs amounts to an assault and is unlawful unless it can be justified. Justification can only be achieved by establishing a legal right to use handcuffs, and good objective grounds for doing so. Use of force must be reasonable, necessary and proportionate.

It therefore strikes us that security firms who are using handcuffs are treading on very thin ice and that the use of handcuffs against members of the public would, in most circumstances, constitute assault.

This being the case our advice to anyone who finds themselves detained and handcuffed by security personnel is to report the matter to the police - more importantly we strongly advise them to take legal action - the use of handcuffs by security personnel would (in our opinion) in most circumstances be illegal.

If you do find yourself in conflict with security on site we would strongly advise you to co-operate fully and do what is asked of you, if you feel they have overstepped the mark then as we said before try and get their ID and see if there are witnesses's who would be prepared to speak on your behalf. Make a note of the date and time the incident occurred. If an offence has been committed against you contact the police immediately - they have a duty to investigate. Of course we understand that you want to remain at the festival - but that might not always be possible depending on the severity of the situation.

Once away from the festival you may wish to follow up your complaint you can write to the festival organisers and to the local authority licensing department. Obviously if an offence has been committed you should report it to the police. You should also write to the head of the security firm concerned. If the incident is serious you may need to seek legal advice and if you have been injured seek medical advice immediately.

Of course we are assuming that you haven't been a plonker like some who got involved with the rioting at certain festivals - if you behave badly and illegally then it's quite obvious that you're going to be dealt with - and if you think security are tough have a look at how the police quell rioters!

Your Ratings & Comments
Based on 1 rating
Written by ME-J | 3rd Jun 2013
As an experienced security trainer with five years as a Police liaison officer I have to say that this article is simply first rate. I have never come across a more thorough, well researched and well worded piece on this matter in all my time.
IMO, this should be circulated to all attendees both staff and visitors at all festivals.

Article Info

Festival Survival Guide
Security and Stewards
Festival Survival Guide Index
Part 1. The Safeconcerts Festival Survival Guide
Getting the best from your festival experience
Part 2. Preparation
Some important stuff to do before you're ready to go
Part 3. Security and Stewards
On site security and stewards - what you should know
Part 4. On Your Way
What to do en route and on arrival
Part 5. Your Stuff
How best to keep it safe
Part 6. Pitching Your Tent
Some useful tips for your temporary home
Part 7. Your Body
Keep it safe - it's yours and you have choices
Part 8. Keeping Clean
Not easy but perfectly possible
Part 9. Your Clothes
Keep cool, warm and dry and still keep your cred!
Part 10. Drugs and Alcohol
Be wise, be safe, take care
Part 12. Camp Fires
Not a good idea, why?
Part 13. Toilets
Infamous - can you survive them?
Part 14. Children at Festivals
Fun for all the family?
Part 15. Crowd Safety at Festivals
Keeping safe in a dense crowd - crowd surfing and moshing

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