Security guard on duty Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
The methods of hotel crowd controllers have come under fire from one Brisbane lawyer, who believes the crackdown on alcohol-fuelled violence should take into account approaches used in handling intoxicated patrons.
Compensation lawyer Mark O'Connor says a legal loophole currently allows hotels to dodge responsibility for the actions of security staff.
Under the Security Providers Act 1993, crowd controllers are not recognised as direct employees of hotels because they are often contractors employed by security firms, not the pubs and clubs they patrol.
“This allows hotels to turn a blind eye to what their bouncers are doing,” Mr O'Connor said.
“This is a cop-out because I believe if you employ security staff to control patrons then you should be legally responsible for the actions of these staff members.”
Mr O'Connor said he has acted for several victims of crowd control violence, including a man injured when intervening to assist another man being attacked by several crowd controllers.
“With the focus on alcohol-related violence the government needs to look at all areas of violence including excessive and over the top violence by security staff.”
Mr O'Connor believes that a change of attitude is needed to manage crowd control if safer environments are to be provided for patrons. He thinks hotels should assume more responsibility for the actions of security staff.
“Pubs and clubs should not be allowed to weasel out of their responsibilities for bouncer behaviour, as they are currently doing.”
Matthew Bhimbhai, Managing Director of In Front Security, disagrees that crowd control violence is “out of control”.
“The majority of guards are well trained and are dealing with awkward situations,” Mr Bhimbhai said.
Mr Bhimbhai, who has more than a decade of experience in security, said that although incidents do happen, they are still very rare.
“In ten years, I have had maybe one incident, and because of provocation, the guy wasn't convicted.”
Mr Bhimbhai said that under the Liquor Act 1992, licensed hotels are more responsible for crowd safety than the public is led to believe.
“There is overlapping between the Security Providers Act and the Liquor Act, but in terms of the Liquor Act, hotels are still accountable for security staff.”
Still, Mr O'Connor believes the amount of force being used by crowd controllers in Queensland venues is unacceptable.
“I've seen a bunch of cases where harmless individuals have been grabbed from behind, arms above the head. To some bouncers, it seems to be just a bit of sport.”