Currie East Neighbourhood Watch

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions along with answers from appropriate sources. If you have suggestions for other questions you feel may be of interest to watch members then please send them to the website administrator at: webadmin @ cenw.org.uk.

Citizen's Arrest - the law
The use of force against intruders
Leaving children at home alone
CCTV systems

Citizen's Arrest - the law

The local police have been asked to confirm the position with what was originally called a "Citizen's Arrest", or detaining a suspect until the police arrive. Here is the wording from the Police Information Net for Scotland:

"A private citizen has certain common law powers of arrest but they must be exercised with care as wrongful arrest can result in a claim for damages. The crime must be a serious one and not merely a breach of the peace, and he must be certain that an offence has been committed by, for example, witnessing it or being the victim. Reasonable force may be used if the arrested person resists and he must be handed over to the police as soon as possible."

The main points are:

Source: Lothian & Borders Police

The use of force against intruders

Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. You are not expected to make fine judgements over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment. So long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary in the heat of the moment, that would be the strongest evidence of you acting lawfully and in self defence. This is still the case if you use something to hand as a weapon.

As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence.

Do I have to wait to be attacked?

No, not if you are in your own home and in fear for yourself or others. In those circumstances the law does not require you to wait to be attacked before using defensive force yourself.

What if the intruder dies?

If you have acted in reasonable self-defence, as described above, and the intruder dies you will still have acted lawfully. Indeed, there are several such cases where the householder has not been prosecuted. However, if, for example: having knocked someone unconscious, you then decided to further hurt or kill them to punish them; or you knew of an intended intruder and set a trap to hurt or to kill them rather than involve the police, you would be acting with very excessive and gratuitous force and could be prosecuted.

What if I chase them as they run off?

This situation is different as you are no longer acting in self-defence and so the same degree of force may not be reasonable. However, you are still allowed to use reasonable force to recover your property and make a citizen's arrest. You should consider your own safety and, for example, whether the police have been called. A rugby tackle or a single blow would probably be reasonable. Acting out of malice and revenge with the intent of inflicting punishment through injury or death would not.

Source: Crown Prosecution Service

Leaving children at home alone

The law does not set a minimum age at which children can be left alone. However, it is an offence to leave a child alone when doing so puts him or her at risk.

How do you decide if you can safely leave a child alone? There are many important things to consider before you decide to leave a child alone. These include:

For example, most parents would think it's OK to leave a 16-year-old alone for the evening, but to leave them for a week would be unacceptable.

Source: NSPCC

CCTV systems

Home CCTV systems are becoming more popular and affordable, but you have to be careful where you position the cameras.

What am I allowed to point the cameras at?

Anything within your own property, including your car on the road outside. You should not show neighbouring property, where possible.

Do I need to display warning signs if I have a home security CCTV system?

Signs are not mandatory for home security CCTV systems, but they are recommended as a deterrent.

Source: Lothian & Borders Police