Citizens on Patrol: Making a Case for Citizens’ Arrest in Australia

Dr Matthew Raj1

1Bond University, Robina, Australia

In 2019, a Supreme Court of New South Wales jury found a man not guilty of murder following his claim that he was making a citizen’s arrest.  This paper examines the power of an Australian citizen to arrest another. In so doing, the paper explores the various scenarios in which a citizen’s arrest can be made, the conditions for an arrest and the consequences of making an error (that is, where a wrongful arrest is made or too much force is used). This paper considers the broader topic of crime prevention, specifically, the deterrence of crime (in particular, ‘youth crime’), by better educating citizens about their power of arrest. In applying Cohen and Felson’s (1979) Routine Activity Theory, it is posited that citizens are ‘guardians’, capable of deterring offending. In a nutshell, it is argued that legal reform to the citizen’s power to make an arrest, as well as improved community awareness and education, would both deter crime and reduce the likelihood of mischiefs  inherent to citizen’s arrests (e.g., claims of false imprisonment).


Dr Matthew Raj is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law at Bond University. He is Called to the Bar of England & Wales and has practised criminal law. His research is predominantly in criminology and criminal law.


Dec 10 2021