If someone is apprehended by a loss prevention officer on the way out of say, coles or woolies, what are the legal rights of the LPO and the person being apprehended?

For example, if the LPO starts making accusations that the customer has stolen a whole bunch of groceries, does the customer have to comply and walk with them to the site office for further interrogation/investigation? Or can the customer just call bullshit and walk out unhindered? Is the LPO allowed to forcefully stop the customer from leaving the premises?

Asking from the perspective of NSW state, Australian law.

also, if the LPO does use force, and this is illegal, but then it turns out that the customer did indeed commit grand theft tea-bags, does the force retroactively become legal?

Can the LPO just forcefully seize the groceries back? And if so, what are the consequences if the customer is then found to be innocent?

1 Answer 1


Loss prevention officers are just security guards employed by the owners or management to regulate patrons or customers in compliance with the terms and conditions of the store. They have no special powers or no more powers than the average person. They may be able to arrest and or detain someone however this is usually limited to a 'caught red-handed' scenario, ie they have to be a witness to it. Upon arrest they must only use reasonable force, they can't assault you. The force must be reasonable no matter what regardless of guilt. They don't have powers of search and thus any search must be consented to, you have the right to refuse a search or questioning but that may mean you have to leave the premises.

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