A former No 10 adviser has claimed “aggressive” city centre rangers confronted her son while he was shopping for shampoo and “slam-dunked” him to the ground before handcuffing him.
A video of the incident involving the 15-year-old son of Kirsty Buchanan, which took place at a Superdrug store in Chichester, West Sussex, has been shared on social media.
It shows the two civilian security staff employed by the Chichester Business Improvement District (BID) scheme restraining the teenager while one of them put plastic handcuffs on him and one knelt across his legs.
Sussex Police said its officers were called to the shop in East Street in Chichester, West Sussex, shortly after 3.30pm on Wednesday to reports that a group of teenagers had become involved in an altercation.
A shop worker also reported being assaulted.
The force said that two children had been arrested in connection with the incident.
Ms Buchanan told The Mirror newspaper: “They (the rangers) started to get aggressive towards them and one of them got into my son’s personal space and he asked, ‘can you get out of my face’.
“What I have been told is the ranger pushed him and my son pushed back.
“He was then slam-dunked to the floor and (they) sat on top of him as you see in the video and they put plastic handcuffs on him – the police then arrived and arrested my son.”
Speaking on Times Radio, Ms Buchanan said her son was followed by the rangers into the shop and added: “When (her son) got to the shampoo counter he was joking around about being followed by these two guys whereupon they snapped, grabbed his arm, threw him on to the ground, sat on top of him.
“They got plastic handcuffs, handcuffed him and yanked his arms up behind his back whereupon my son used some understandably unparliamentary language but also screamed ‘It hurts, it hurts, get off me’.
“A friend of his came to his aid and was also subsequently arrested for assault which was committed in prime to try to get these two men off my child.”
She said that a member of the staff reported being hurt in the incident but she claimed that this happened after her son had been detained by the rangers.
She added: “As far as I understand, he was arrested for assault, and I promise you I am not joking, while being pinned to the floor he threw his head back and he has been accused by one of these security guards of a backwards headbutt.”
Questioning the use of private security guards and the police response, she added: “There needs to be an investigation into the police handling of this, for an hour-and-a-half I didn’t even know where my son was or had been taken.
“I also think there needs to be a thorough review of the use of these security guards on our streets because they are on our streets all across the country, they are completely unregulated. What is the process of due diligence by which they are hired? What is the training procedure? What is their remit?”
When asked if she thought her son had been targeted because he was black, she replied: “Let’s put it this way, if I went in to buy shampoo, do you think this would have happened to me?”
Responding to the video on Twitter, Joe Murphy, retired former political editor of the London Evening Standard, the Sunday Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday, posted: “And how the heck does a private business-funded security force have the power to handcuff young kids?
“Are they trained? Are they safe? This looks awful.”
A Sussex Police spokesman said there was no law against civilians carrying handcuffs but their use could be a crime if used disproportionately.
He said: “There is no law in the UK that prevents civilians carrying handcuffs. Anyone who does carry handcuffs should be aware that their use could constitute a crime, unless they can show that using them was reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.”
The spokesman added that the two teenagers had been released on bail until June 24 while inquiries continued.
He said: “Police were called to Superdrug in East Street around 3.30pm following reports of an altercation.
“On arrival, officers discovered a 15-year-old boy from Worthing had been detained in handcuffs by privately employed civilian security staff. He was arrested on suspicion of assault.
“We can now clarify that a second teenager – a 16-year-old boy from Chichester – was detained by police in the area and arrested on suspicion of assault, possession of cannabis, and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
“Both suspects have been released on bail with strict conditions until June 24, pending further inquiries.
“A full and thorough investigation is ongoing to establish the exact circumstances of what happened; this includes reviewing footage and taking witness statements.
“Sussex Police has been in contact with the 15-year-old’s mother and contact will be maintained as the investigation continues.”
The security guards involved are employed by Chichester BID, an organisation set up in 2012 and funded by local, business-rate payers to “invest in local improvements”, according to its website.
Chichester BID was approached by the PA news agency for clarification on the powers available to its ranger staff to detain members of the public and to use the “plastic handcuffs” which are claimed to have been used in the incident.
Its website states that it will “deliver a team of Rangers, in partnership with Chichester City Council, that are the eyes and ears on the street and a reassuring presence for those in the front line of petty crime.”
It released a statement saying: “Chichester BID is aware of an incident that occurred on 22 March at the Superdrug store on East Street, involving a group of young people and two Rangers.
“Together with Blayde Security, who provide our security services, we are cooperating fully with Sussex Police, who are investigating the matter. We are taking this very seriously.
“We want to reassure traders, residents and visitors to Chichester city centre that we are committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all.”
A Superdrug spokeswoman said: “An incident occurred today in our Chichester store between Chichester BID Rangers and a group of young males they were monitoring.
“Unfortunately, female staff were also assaulted. This is now a police matter, and we are offering our full assistance to Sussex Police.
“Our priority is always to keep our colleagues and customers safe, we have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violence and aggression.
“The store remains closed due to damage caused.”
A Chichester District Council spokeswoman said: “We have been made aware of an incident that took place in Chichester city today and we want to clarify that no Chichester District Council staff were involved.”