Crimebusting with CCTV

Image © naughton321. Used with permission.

Well, well. The Register reports that

Liverpool-based operator TJ Morris Ltd, better known on the High St as Home Bargains, is fed up with shoplifters. So it has set up an innovative new scheme which involves publishing on the net CCTV pictures of individuals suspected of shoplifting.

As the company explains on its site: “Below are a series of images of suspected shoplifters in Home Bargains stores.

“We are keen to identify them and pass their details onto the police. We are offering a reward of up to £500 per instance, for information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution for shoplifting.”

Hmmm… I’ve just looked at the said web site and it does indeed have pictures of various unsavoury-looking types. But then, I reflected, most of us look pretty unsavoury when snapped by a CCTV camera. I’ve seen myself on CCTV, for example, and I wouldn’t want to meet me on a dark night. So it’s interesting to read the next part of the Register’s piece:

A cautionary note is supplied by David Hooper, a Partner at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain and a Specialist in Libel Law. He said: “If police put up a wanted poster, they have what is known as ‘qualified privilege’ and are protected in law.

“That is not the case with private individuals or businesses, who would have to be very sure they could justify their actions. If challenged, they would have to prove reasonable and objective grounds to suspect somebody of having shoplifted.

“If they got it wrong, they could open themselves to a libel action.”

Quite so, m’lud. I can picture the scene now. My QC is addressing the Jury in his summing up:

“The plaintiff, a perfectly respectable university professor of modest means but somewhat crumpled appearance, has had his reputation destroyed by the false implication, conveyed through the publication of these CCTV images, that he is a common thief, whereas in fact he has for many years selflessly donated a substantial portion of his income to the support of worthy organisations such as Apple Computer Inc,, Heffers Booksellers, The Economist, the New Yorker and other causes too numerous to mention. The pain and anguish caused to him and his family by such cavalier and defamatory publication can barely be imagined. I put it to you, ladies and gentlemen, that he is entitled not only to a full and prominent apology from the organisation that has so cruelly traduced him, but also to substantial damages.”

Quite so. £500,000 plus costs would do nicely. A picture is worth not just a thousand words, but five hundred grand in old money.