We recently represented a man in his late 60s, of completely clean character.
He had been apprehended by Tesco security staff on leaving the store, and accused of theft of items he had hanging in a bag from the hook of the trolley. He immediately stated that he had completely forgotten the items, and would of course go straight away to pay for them, as he had already done for a considerable number of other items in the body of his trolley.
Tesco however had other ideas. He was marched through the store to the Manager’s office where police were called, and he was arrested for theft and taken to Carmarthen Police Station. He was interviewed on tape and he felt confident that common sense would prevail and no charges would follow. He had the impression from the police that they were of the same mind, but because of their policy of referring cases to the CPS for advice on charging, they could not make the decision themselves. Our client was somewhat reassured however by the police that he didn’t have much to worry about and the whole matter was likely to come to a fairly swift and sensible conclusion.
Nothing of the kind! Several inconclusive bailbacks later, our client was informed that the CPS had taken the decision to charge him with theft. It was at the point of charge that he first sought legal advice and we became involved.
At the Magistrates’ Court our client elected for Crown Court trial, and the case came before the Crown Court in Swansea on 3rd December 2010. The judge indicated that he had read through the case papers and that the prosecution should think carefully about their decision to prosecute the case at all, and he expressed surprise that a case had been taken against a man of this age and of completely clean character, who had from the very beginning given his explanation of forgetfulness, and had indeed already paid for the bulk of his shopping. He indicated that the Courts were for dealing with “proper” cases.
After a short adjournment the Crown prosecutor returned and informed the court that she would be offering no evidence against the defendant after all and so a formal Not Guilty verdict was entered.
All is not well that ends well neccessarily, as this gentleman has been banned from shopping in Tesco stores for life. We hope that we can get that directive reversed, and will be writing to the manager of the store. Our client has also suffered the humiliation of appearances in the public courts, and the stress the whole matter has caused to himself and his family over a period of many weeks. A substantial amount of public money has been wasted in bringing the case against our client. Perhaps if Tesco are determined to prosecute all matters of alleged shoplifting, whatever the circumstances, they should fund such prosecutions in house and not use taxpayers money to execute their policy.