Citizen’s Arrests (Tas)

In Tasmania, the vast majority of arrests are carried out by police. In some situations, though, it is also lawful for a member of the public to arrest a person. This is called a citizen’s arrest. This page deals with citizen’s arrests in Tasmania.

What is a citizen’s arrest?

A citizen’s arrest occurs when a person who is not a police officer arrests another person because they have seen them committing or attempting to commit an offence. The arrestor must then take the person arrested to the police without delay.

A person who conducts an arrest may use reasonable force to do so.

Under the Criminal Code 1924, a person in Tasmania must arrest a person if they catch them in the act of committing any of the offences listed in Appendix A. A person may arrest another person if they believe on reasonable grounds that they have committed one of the offences listed in Appendix B.

When can a citizen’s arrest occur?

Under section 27 of the Criminal Code 1924, any person who finds a person committing an Appendix A offence has a duty to arrest the person.

A person may also arrest a person who:

  • They believe on reasonable grounds has committed an Appendix B offence;
  • They see committing a breach of the peace or believe is about to commit a breach of the peace;
  • They find lying or loitering by night under circumstances that cause them to believe that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime;
  • They believe on reasonable grounds to have committed a crime and to be escaping arrest;

A person who is in command of an aircraft may also arrest a person who is committing an offence that affects the aircraft while on board the aircraft.

Assisting police

Under section 28 of the Criminal Code 1924, a person has a duty to assist a police officer in making an arrest when asked to do so unless the person knows that the arrest is illegal.

Appendix A offences

Appendix A offences are set out in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Code 1924. They include assault, aggravated assault, riot, murder, manslaughter, rape, indecent assault, stalking, robbery, wounding, receiving stolen property and arson.

Appendix B offences

Appendix B offences are:

  • Treason
  • Piracy
  • Murder
  • Burglary and aggravated burglary
  • Rape
  • Offences of arson and setting fire to vegetation where serious danger to life is caused
  • Intentionally endangering persons on a railway
  • Any crime that involves causing serious danger to the life of a person
  • Attempted to commit any of the above offences

Unlawful arrests

A person should not attempt to carry out a citizen’s arrest unless it is a necessity.

There are a number of risks involved in carrying out a citizen’s arrest. A member of the public is unlikely to have experience or training in dealing with suspects so there is a risk that either the arrestor or the arrestee may become injured. There is also a risk that bystanders may perceive the arrestor to be acting illegally.

A citizen’s arrest may be unlawful if it is conducted with more force than is necessary in the circumstances, if the person arrested is not promptly delivered into police custody, or if there is not a sufficient cause for the arrest.

In any of these situations, the arrest may result in criminal or civil consequences for the arrestor. This may include the person who was arrested taking civil action against the arrestor for a tort such as false imprisonment, assault or negligence. It may also lead to criminal charges being laid against the arrestor for assault or deprivation of liberty.

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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