Law and Legislation

Law and Legislation

Unfortunately, some close protection operatives (CPOs) and close protection security companies do not give much thought to the law. Consequently, they may fall foul of legislation.

Misconceptions surround the close protection industry with regards to what a bodyguard or close protection operative can and cannot do while carrying out their duties. In the moment, many close protection operatives will not give a second thought to the repercussions following their possible actions.

All Security Industry Authority (SIA) approved close protection training courses teach law and legislation. However, only the basics are included, such as knowing the difference between Civil Law, Common Law and Criminal Law. 

Civil, Criminal and Common law

Civil law cases include trespass, libel, slander, employment, divorce and non-indictable offences. Magistrates Court and County Court hear these cases. 

Criminal law cases are tried before a judge and jury in Crown Court. Criminal law covers indictable offences such as theft, murder, serious assault, sexual assault, stalking, breach of peace, drug offences and other serious offences.

Common law is based on custom and practice and underpins statutes and Acts of Parliament.

It would be unfair to expect bodyguards to learn all there is to know about the law. They may as well become lawyers! However, the individual close protection operative or security company must understand the basics. Working knowledge of legislation ensures that the operatives do not break the law while carrying out their protective duties.

Close Protection Law and Legislation

Close protection operatives may expect to encounter several aspects of the law while carrying out their duties. Not only as the operative committing an offence but the CPO may be on the receiving end of an assault or other criminal act during the defence of their Principal.

By the very nature of the role close protection operatives undertake, they will undoubtedly cross the line regarding the law at times. It is down to the CPO to justify law-breaking actions at the police station or in a court of law should the worst happen. Bodyguards are not above the law. They do not have the same powers as the police. Therefore they must understand what they can and cannot do.

Bodyguards could be called upon to break the law by their Principal. The decision will be down to the personal attitude and morals of each CPO. Are they willing to break the law for the sake of keeping their job? Yet risk losing their licence and livelihood?

Theft and Criminal Damage

There are many examples of bodyguards assaulting members of the press or an overly enthusiastic fan. Typically, taking their camera and forcibly removing the film or memory card because their client has asked them to. Who do you think will go to court on a charge of theft or criminal damage, the bodyguard or their Principal? 


A Principal may even ask their bodyguard to purchase or hold illegal drugs for them. CPOs should seriously consider the Misuse of Drugs Regulation 2001 and the classification of drugs and associated penalties.

Road Traffic Offences

Principals making requests to break the speed limit as they are running late are common. However, CPOs are not exempt from obeying the Road Traffic Act 1988 and committing driving offences. CPOs should also protect Principals from themselves, their members of staff or entourage, who seek to drive a vehicle recklessly or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


Over the years we have all seen various celebrity bodyguards rolling around on the floor with celebrity fans or ripping cameras out of the hands of the paparazzi, very rarely is this action justifiable in the eyes of the law.

The paparazzi know very well what they can and cannot do and stay on the line of civil rather than criminal harassment.

Criminal harassment simply refers to a person who targets someone else and then behaves in a way that terrorises, annoys or otherwise alarms the person. Civil harassment is not criminal in nature, but a civil harassment lawsuit can mean that you have to defend yourself in court.

Similarly, the paparazzi know what a CPO can and cannot do to them. Some “paps” will goad bodyguards. They will attempt to take them to court over an alleged assault. They know that, as a CPO, the person that you are protecting will be wealthy. The paparazzi know there can be money to be made by accusing a bodyguard of heavy-handedness or worse. Not to mention that the publicity helps sell their story and associated pictures or footage!

Although unscrupulous, the paparazzi have a job to do. The paparazzi help keep celebrities in the limelight. So, are a necessary evil. Therefore, CPOs operating on the celebrity protection circuit must learn how to manage the paparazzi and make the situation work in their favour. The goal should be to avoid creating an embarrassing situation for the Principal or themselves by not breaking the law. The CPO should, at all costs, avoid committing an assault.


The severity of injury categorises assaults:

Common assault – where there is no injury, or the injuries are very minor. For example, pushing, slapping or spitting at someone. Common assault carries a penalty of up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine. A CPO will undoubtedly push someone aside at some point in their career, if not on a regular basis.

ABH (actual bodily harm) – is classed as a serious injury which has been inflicted but does not cause permanent damage. Examples of injury include bruising or an injury that requires stitches. The penalty for ABH if the case goes to Crown court is up to 5 years imprisonment.

GBH (Grievous bodily harm) – is classed as a severe injury such as a broken bone or full skin wound. The punishment can vary. In the act of causing GBH carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment, whereas intentionally inflicting GBH carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Use of Force

Under common law, it states that there are circumstances in which a person may use force upon another without committing a crime such as contact sports or surgical procedures.

Also, included under common law is the person’s right to defend themselves from attack, to act in defence of others, to prevent crime and to arrest offenders, and if necessary to use force on another.

Reasonable force

The use of reasonable force to repel an attack is deemed lawful. If the force used is considered as reasonable, then no crime has been committed.

Interpretation of the law follows these guidelines:

  • Minimum use of force
  • Proportionality of force to be used
  • Seriousness of evil to be prevented
  • Right to self-defence

Section 3 of the criminal law act 1977

  1. A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or of persons unlawfully at large. Subsection (1) above shall replace the rules of the common law on the question when force used for a purpose mentioned in the subsection is justified by that purpose.

So, reasonable force may be used while working as a close protection operative when:

  • self-defence from attack;
  • defending another person from attack;
  • defending property; 
  • preventing crime;
  • during a lawful arrest or citizen’s arrest.

CPOs would do well to remember that they may well have to justify their use of force in a Court of Law. Courts judge each case individually.

As the old saying goes, ‘don’t crack a nut with a sledgehammer’. 

Trespass and Civil Arrest

A close protection operative will likely be part of a residential security team (RST) at some point in their career. The RST provides around the clock security to a Principal’s residence or property. Understanding the law is essential when protecting the property or home as it is likely that the CPO will have to deal with a trespasser or attempted burglary at some point. A lawful citizen’s arrest may be required.

The main power of arrest for a crime is covered by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE)

as amended by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA).

Section 24(A) of PACE allows any person, other than a constable, to arrest without a warrant. But the offence committed must be indictable.

Indictable – an offence that can be tried by a jury in the crown court. Whereas the defendant has the right to trial by jury.

Catching someone on the property, i.e. trespassing is a civil offence. So the intrusion is not indictable, and a residential security guard cannot make an arrest. But burglary is an indictable, criminal, offence so a residential security guard can make an arrest.

Breach of the Peace

Unlike a statutory offence enacted in Parliament, breach of the peace is an offence in common law which has developed over years of cases passing through the courts.

A breach of the peace is when a person reasonably believes harm will be caused, or is likely to be caused, to a person or in their presence to their property.

The police and private citizens also have the power to arrest without a warrant where a breach of the peace was committed in the presence of the person making the arrest. 

The same powers exist where there was a threat of a breach of the peace being renewed or the person making the arrest reasonably and honestly believed that such a breach would be committed in the immediate future.

However, any persons who carry out any physical action against another person must be fully aware of the possible repercussions of their actions or inaction. Their behaviour could lead to litigation against the perpetrator; either personally, or their employer, or both. 

Private Security Officers Are Civilians

Unless a close protection operative is working with local government forces, they are a civilian. Like any civilian, they should abide by the local laws. Obedience to driving laws also applies. A security driver may well be able to perform a J-turn successfully or learnt how to block traffic during convoy driving drills in training. Still, they cannot legally perform those techniques on a public highway.

Working as a close protection operative and keeping on the right side of the law can be a minefield. To mitigate risk, a CPO needs to have a good mindset and working knowledge of the law. A close protection operative holding the belief that they are above the law will ultimately learn their view is detrimental to themselves and their Principal.

The Private Security Industry Act

The main aim of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 was to legislate for the regulation of the industry, i.e. what Private Security should do and how it should operate. 

Private security should prevent, deter and detect crime and unauthorised activities. For example: 

  • by use of CCTV;
  • presence of uniformed guards;
  • presence of visible security signs.

Also, the industry should prevent and reduce loss, waste and damage. For example:

  • protection of life;
  • reduced loss of goods from shoplifting, burglary and pilfering;
  • reduced damage to buildings and contents.

Finally, private security should be responsible for monitoring and responding to safety risks. For example:

  • by controlling site access and egress, performing searches, supervising premises evacuation, responding to emergencies; 
  • by providing personnel and appropriate protection systems for people, property and premises.

The Security Industry Authority

The legislation established the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to regulate the Private Security Industry. The SIA functions to protect the public and control the security industry through licensing and industry regulations. 

The SIA monitors the activities and effectiveness of those working in the security industry using inspections. Where necessary, the SIA is involved in updating and improving legislation. 

To improve quality, the SIA has set and approved standards of conduct, training and supervision within the industry. The SIA continues to keep the private security industry and the operation of the legislative framework under review.

The SIA has also attempted to raise industry standards by licensing and regulating private security companies through a voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS). The SIA ACS was set to become compulsory through SIA business licensing in 2015. However, this has failed to materialise.

Many security industry professionals think that the SIA’s success in raising standards has been questionable, to say the least, especially in the close protection sector. Experienced ex-military and police operatives often feel that the SIA may not be the best authority to set the criteria required to becoming a close protection operative (CPO). In particular, there is a consensus that the SIA sets the bar to obtain a close protection licence far too low. 

Still, an SIA licence is required to work legally as a close protection operative or bodyguard in the UK. A CPO considering breaking the law should recognise that they will probably lose their SIA licence and of course, their job and income.


Westminster Security Ltd are not close protection training providers. Content provided is for informational purposes only. Please do not take this content as an operational guide. Some sensitive details have been omitted or changed for confidentiality and security reasons.

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