Citizen’s Arrests (WA)

In Western Australia, the vast majority of arrests are carried out by police officers. Citizen’s arrests, which occur when a member of the public arrests another person, can also be carried out in WA in some situations. This page deals with citizen’s arrests in Western Australia.

What is a citizen’s arrest?

An arrest occurs when a person is seized and taken into custody. Anyone who carries out an arrest – whether they are a police officer or a member of the public – must use only as much force as is reasonable in the circumstances to affect the arrest. The person being arrested must be informed of the reason for the arrest and must not be subjected to unnecessary humiliation or degradation.

A citizen’s arrest occurs when a police who is not a member of the police force places another person under arrest. The arrestor must then bring the person arrested to the police without delay.

If an arrest is carried out unlawfully, the person arrested may have grounds to take legal action against the arrestor.


Section 25 of the Criminal Investigation Act 2006 gives a member of the public the power to arrest another person (the suspect) in Western Australia if:

  • They reasonably suspect that the suspect has committed or is committing an arrestable offence;
  • The suspect is doing an act that the person is entitled to prevent under section 24.

An arrestable offence is an offence that carries a penalty of imprisonment.

Under section 24 of the Criminal Investigation Act 2006, a person may use force that is reasonably necessary in a range of situations where a violent act or breach of the peace is occurring or is about to occur in their presence.

This provision covers the following situations:

  • Acts involving the use of violence against a person;
  • Acts that the person reasonably suspects will cause another person to use violence against a person;
  • Acts that the person reasonably suspects will cause a person to fear violent will be used by a person against another person;
  • Breaches of the peace;
  • The commission of offences;
  • Doing an act in the course of committing an offence.

A person may not enter a place or a vehicle in order to carry out an arrest unless they reasonably suspect that the unlawful killing of a person is taking place.

Role of police in a citizen’s arrest

After a person is arrested in a citizen’s arrest, the arrestor must arrange for police to attend or take the person to the police. They may detain the person until this occurs.

The police may arrest the person if they are authorised to do so. If the police do not place a person under arrest, they then cease to be under arrest.

Unlawful arrests

An arrest may be unlawful for a range of reasons. This may be because of the amount of force used, because of the way the arrest was carried out or because there was not sufficient cause to arrest the person.

If a person is arrested unlawfully, they may have grounds to take civil action against the arrestor. This is most likely to be in the form of an action in tort – such as for false imprisonment, assault, or negligence.

An unlawful arrest may also result in criminal charges against the arrestor. For example, an arrest that causes injuries may result in a charge of assault or assault occasioning bodily harm.

As there are so many risks involved in carrying out a citizen’s arrest, this action should not be taken unless it is a necessity.

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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