Citizen’s Arrests (NT)

While the majority of arrests are carried out by police, there are some situations where a member of the public has the power to arrest another person. This is known as a citizen’s arrest. In the Northern Territory, this power is contained in the Criminal Code Act 1983. This page deals with citizen’s arrests in the NT.

When can a citizen’s arrest occur?

Under section 441 of the Criminal Code Act 1983, a person in the NT who is not a police officer may arrest a person without a warrant where they find the person committing an offence, doing an act or conducting themselves in a way that the person believes on reasonable grounds that the have committed an offence and that their arrest is necessary to:

  • Ensure their appearance before a court;
  • Preserve public order;
  • Prevent the continuance or repetition of the offence or the commission of another offence;
  • For the safety or welfare of the public or of the offender.

A member of the public may also arrest a person if they are instructed to do so by a police officer or if they believe on reasonable grounds that the person is escaping from custody or avoiding apprehension by authorities.

How is a citizen’s arrest conducted?

A person who carries out a citizen’s arrest may use as much force as is reasonable in the circumstances to affect the arrest. They must inform the person of the reason for the arrest and deliver them into police custody without delay. They must not subject the person to unnecessary humiliation or degradation and must not use more force than is reasonable.

Unlawful arrests

An arrest – whether it is conducted by police or by a member of the public – may be unlawful if it is carried out without due cause or if the arrest is not conducted appropriately. This may be because of the level of force used or because of the way the suspect is treated or because.

If a person carrying out an arrest acts unlawfully this may result in civil or criminal legal consequences for the arrestor.

If the person arrested is injured, or is detained unlawfully, they may take action against the arrestor for a tort such as assault or false imprisonment.

The arrestor may also face criminal charges as a result of an arrest that is carried out improperly.

Risks of citizen’s arrests

A person should not attempt to carry out a citizen’s arrest unless it is an absolute necessity. Aside from the legal risks of doing so, a person who does not have training or experience in handling arrests may become injured in the process of restraining a suspect or may injure the suspect.

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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