In an attempt to crack down on shoplifters, a UK storeowner has begun posting CCTV images of suspected thieves on the company's website, along with the incentive of a 500 pound (€580) reward for those who successfully identify thieves. On Saturday, the scheme claimed its first victim. But is it legal?
Early last month directors at Home Bargains discount shopping chain, which operates 190 stores in the United Kingdom, gave instructions to their managers to begin sticking up posters in shop fronts, displaying CCTV images of suspected shoplifters. A few weeks later, an online version of the anti-theft campaign was launched. A page entitled "Crimebusters" was added to the company's website, and eight purported thieves were named and shamed. Just three weeks after the launch, and one of them, whose image has since been removed, was arrested at the weekend.
Home Bargains, which raked in £384m (€446m) in annual revenues last year, says that six million (€6.9m), or the equivalent of 1.5% of revenue, is lost to shoplifting. Operations director Joe Morris says that the new scheme is the store's only way of countering the problem. He assures that the police are aware of and cooperating with the work, and that your mugshot will only go up on the site if the company is "very confident" that you stole from them.
“Practicing this kind of ‘private justice’, could be both dangerous to them and a breach of the legal rights of their customers”
Bruno Anatrella is a Paris-based lawyer specialised in image and privacy rights.
CCTV is legal if the shopper is made aware that they are being filmed. That's why you see the ‘Smile, you're on CCTV' sticker on shop doors. However, it's when those recorded images are shown to the public that the shop owner can risk infringing on the rights of people identified. These people could either sue for defamation or for impeding the right to a fair trial.
However, if the people concerned have indeed committed a crime, then it's unlikely that they will attempt to sue the company for impeding a fair trial or defamation because in doing so they would be revealing their identity to the company, and therefore risk being sued by it for the crime which they committed. However, despite this apparent safety net to shop owners, taking a risk by practicing this kind of ‘private justice', could be both dangerous to them and a breach of the legal rights of their customers."
Identify the following faces and win £500!
19 July, Old Swan, Liverpool (north-west).
26 June, Bletchley, Milton Keynes (centre).
12 July, Everton, Liverpool (north-west).