A correspondent from Queensland says:

Some SES and ES depots have been subject to break and enter; more common in rural areas. Some have discussed having someone sleep on site to prevent or discourage such theft.  What force could that volunteer use to prevent ingress? What force could they use to detain the intruder?  And would you mind reflecting on the various reasons of why that approach to ES depot security isn’t a good idea?

Queensland has a criminal code that is meant to contain all the law in one place (the Criminal Code is set out in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) and is referred to hereafter as ‘the Code’). The Code says that a person is not criminally responsible for an act where (s 31(d)):

(i) the person does or omits to do the act in order to save himself or herself or another person, or his or her property or the property of another person, from serious harm or detriment threatened to be inflicted by some person in a position to carry out the threat; and

(ii) the person doing the act or making the omission reasonably believes he or she or the other person is unable otherwise to escape the carrying out of the threat; and

(iii) doing the act or making the omission is reasonably proportionate to the harm or detriment threatened.

One cannot answer what force the volunteer could use because it depends on what he or she believes (s 31(d)(ii)) and what the judge or jury thinks is, or was, ‘reasonably proportionate’ to the harm.  Injuring people to protect property may well be excessive force.

If a person is committing an offence for which they can be arrested without warrant, then ‘it is lawful for any person who finds another committing the offence to arrest the other person without warrant’ (ss 546, 548).  ‘Reasonably necessary’ force may be used in making an arrest (s 254).

Why is this suggestion not a good idea?

If you are expecting volunteers to use force you are asking them to second guess what a judge or jury might consider ‘proportionate’ and to also understand what offences the intruder may or may not be committing and whether or not they are offences for which a person may be arrested without warrant.  It is simply putting the volunteer in harm’s way.

If one felt that sleeping in the unit was a deterrent the advice would have to be don’t use any force to stop the intruder or arrest them.  You are only there as a witness, observe and report what you observed but even still volunteers are being put in harm’s way in a way that should never happen.

If security is required employ a security guard, get an alarm installed, install better locks and window guards.  Don’t ask volunteers to form vigilante groups. The protection of the assets cannot be worth the risk.