Security guards secure right to use reasonable force

Supreme Court of Canada rules private security guards can use reasonable force to detain suspects

Private security firms are applauding a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that upholds the right of people to use reasonable force when making a citizen's arrest.

Police officers are not the only people who have the authority to physically detain someone accused of breaking the law, the country's top court said Friday.

But it's still unclear how much force is "reasonable," according to defence lawyers. They predict judges will be asked to lay down clear guidelines as more cases are prosecuted.

Cabbie at centre of case

The case heard by the Supreme Court involved a Toronto taxi driver, Daniel Asante-Mensah, who fled from a private security guard at Pearson International Airport in 1991. Asante-Mensah had been ordered to stay away from the passenger terminals after repeatedly picking up fares without an airport permit.

A security guard arrested him on a trespassing charge, and said he would have to wait until the police arrived. Asante-Mensah shoved his car door into the guard and then drove away, the court was told.

The taxi driver was charged with escaping lawful custody and assault while resisting arrest. But a judge found him not guilty, ruling that the guard a "ground transportation inspector" hired to enforce airport rules had no authority to use force to try to stop Asante-Mensah.

The acquittal was appealed, and Ontario's highest court found the taxi driver guilty of assault while resisting arrest. On Friday, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction.

'Triumph of common sense'

Private security firms are pleased with the ruling, saying that their employees could not patrol malls, sports arenas and other places without the ability to detain drunk or disorderly people.

"It's just the triumph of common sense. It's just like somebody tapped our officers on the shoulder and said, 'Good work, just keep on doing it. It's important, and it's lawful,'" said Ross McLeod, who runs Intelligarde, a large Ontario security company.

"The reverse decision would have been disastrous, and as a member of the public you would have noticed it immediately," he said.