Your rights if you suspect shoplifting

It’s important to know your rights if you are suspected of shoplifting and if you look at the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman’s recommendation and protocol for dealing with suspected shoplifters, your rights include:

  • The security guard must actually observe you when shoplifting or concealing items and will continue to observe you until confronted or reasonably suspected that you have stolen from the store, hidden items or taken an unpaid item off the premises.
  • The security guard must approach you discreetly and request proof that the item has been paid for.
  • If you can provide satisfactory proof of payment, the security guard must thank you and let you go.
  • The security guard must treat you with dignity and respect and not accuse you of theft or treat you if you are guilty of theft.
  • If you refuse to cooperate, the security guard can warn you that he will make a citizen arrest.
  • The security guard must arrest you verbally and tell you the reason for the arrest.
  • The security guard is not permitted to touch, hold or handcuff you or use force to restrain you or prevent you from escaping unless necessary and even then only use such force as is reasonably possible is required to detain you. The business must call the police immediately and hand you over to them for further investigation and action.
  • If you cooperate and you don’t need to be arrested, the security guard will have to take you to the manager’s office.
  • In the manager’s office they may ask you to turn over any goods which the security guard has reasonable grounds to believe have been stolen or hidden.
  • The manager may request that you be searched in accordance with your fundamental constitutional rights, particularly dignity and privacy. They must be searched by a person of the same sex.
  • Once arrested you must be made aware of your right to remain silent and the consequences of not remaining silent immediately and you cannot be coerced into confessing or making a confession that could be used as evidence against you.
  • Where possible, you must be given an opportunity to provide proof of purchase or other explanation before a decision is made to arrest you and hand you over to the police.
  • The store must be able to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to avoid paying for an item.
  • Security personnel must exercise special care when dealing with the elderly, young people and those who may have intellectual disabilities or health conditions such as diabetes.

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