Last updated 25 August 2016

The power of a person to perform a citizen’s arrest is limited to the circumstances prescribed by ch 58 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) (Criminal Code) including where a person:

  • is called upon by a police officer to assist in the arrest of another person, unless the person called upon knows that there is no reasonable ground for the suspicion (s 546(b))
  • finds someone committing an offence for which an arrest may be made by police without a warrant (s 546(c))
  • believes on reasonable grounds that the person has committed an offence for which an arrest may be made by police without a warrant, whether that person has committed the offence or not (s 546(d))
  • finds another person by night and believes on reasonable grounds that that other person is committing an offence (s 546(e))
  • believes on reasonable grounds that the property another person offers to sell, pawn or deliver to them has been acquired by means of an offence for which a person may be arrested without a warrant (s 551)
  • is in command of an aircraft, is on board the aircraft, and persons acting with that person’s authority, find someone committing an offence on the aircraft or believe on reasonable grounds that the person has committed, has attempted to commit or intends to commit an offence in relation to, or affecting the use of, the aircraft (s 547A)
  • finds someone committing an indictable offence at night (s 549)
  • finds someone who they believe on reasonable grounds to have committed an offence escaping from another person who they believe on reasonable grounds has the authority to arrest that other person for that offence (s 550).

Any person who witnesses a breach of the peace may intervene to prevent its continuance or renewal. That person may detain any offender and use such force as is reasonably necessary to take them into police custody (s 260 Criminal Code).

A person exercising a power of arrest must be careful not to exceed their limited authority, or the person arrested may sue for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and assault. Once a citizen’s arrest has been made, the person arrested should, without delay, be handed over to police or a justice of the peace (s 552 Criminal Code) with a full explanation of the reasons for the arrest. A person who makes a citizen’s arrest should be willing to speak to police.