Citizen’s Arrest (ACT)

In the ACT, most arrests are carried out by the police. However, in some situations, members of the public are authorized to carry out arrests. This is known as a citizen’s arrest. This page deals with citizen’s arrests in the ACT.

What is arrest?

Arrest occurs when a person is seized and detained, usually on suspicion of a criminal offence.

When a person – whether they are a police officer or a member of the public – conducts an arrest, they may use reasonable force to affect the arrest.

The arrestor must inform the suspect of the reason for the arrest and must not subject them to unnecessary degradation or humiliation.

When can a citizen’s arrest occur?

Under section 218 of the Crimes Act 1900, a person who is not a police officer may arrest a person if they believe on reasonable grounds that they are committing or have just committed an offence.

As soon as practicable after arresting a person, the arrestor must take the person into the custody of police.  

Unlawful arrests

An arrest can be unlawful because it is carried out under circumstances where there is no power to arrest the person.

It can also be unlawful because more force is used than is reasonable in the circumstances or because of the way the suspect is treated while under arrest.

When a person is arrested unlawfully, they may take civil action against the arrestor. This may include suing for damages for a tort such as assault, false imprisonment or negligence.

When an unlawful arrest occurs, criminal charges such as a charge of assault or deprivation or liberty may also follow.

Unlawful citizen’s arrests

When a person attempts to carry out a citizen’s arrest, there are a number of risks involved. Members of the public generally do not have training or experience in carrying out arrests. They may injure the person being arrested or may become injured themselves. There is also a risk that bystanders may perceive the arrestor to be acting unlawfully and this may lead to further problems. For these reasons, a citizen’s arrest should only be attempted where it is absolutely necessary.

Other jurisdictions

The laws governing when a citizen’s arrest may be carried out differ substantially between different states and territories. For information on the laws in other jurisdictions, see the below pages:

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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