back to article Shop risks legal action for posting 'shoplifter' CCTV online

A new online initiative designed to crack down on shoplifters could be set to rebound badly on the retail chain pioneering it - and police advice on the law in matters of surveillance may yet again prove to be more optimistic than accurate. Liverpool-based operator TJ Morris Ltd, better known on the High St as Home Bargains, …


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  1. John Savard


    Your article does identify potential legal concerns. Shoplifters are hardly likely to be targets for vigilante action, though. And if they are reported to the police and convicted, they will have little claim for invasion of privacy.

    The main danger would be if a shoplifter was underage, I would suspect, as that could lead to police prosecution rather than requiring a civil action by a shoplifter.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    String 'em up too

    The webs too good for 'em!

  3. Graham Marsden


    ... so, let's see:

    1) Go into Home Bargains

    2) Act suspiciously, but get out without being challenged

    3) They post their CCTV footage

    4) You sue for defamation

    5) PROFIT!

  4. Columbus
    Big Brother

    "the police have no concerns"

    no - they wouldn't would they? As they already post such "unidentified" photos round the stores employees as part of the shopwatch initiative they are already doing it. I would strongly suspect TJ Morris's actions are done with the tacit approval and in probable partnership with police.

    Anybody identified in the photographs fancy their chances in Civil Court against the might of the company with the Police backing them up?

    For balance I would like to point out that professional shoplifters are scum and should be put in the stocks, as opposed to teenage twits who need some serious education with the instrument of your choice.

    Big Brother - obviously

  5. Reality Dysfunction

    geographical analysis

    I love the way out of the 8 sets of images on the website 4 are in liverpool and 4 are in the rest of the UK combined. I'll be checking the site regularly to see if I can grass up any neigbours for the £500 reward.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He's hoping his customers can't afford to sue

    Presumably he's hoping his customers are 'bargain' and don't have the money to sue him whenever he makes a false accusation against them publicly on his website.

    If I was them, I would give his shop a miss. Any misunderstanding could be fixed at the exit if he stopped them, but once he's libel'd them there is not fix except monetary damages.

    He'd be better off stopping people as they exit, like every other shop on the planet.

  7. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!

    ...and when they get suied

    I will laugh at their guilty until proven innocent stance.

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

  8. John 73


    Given the draconian libel laws in the UK, I'd have thought the shops would be well advised to take down these pictures promptly. Once an accusation of libel has been made, it's up to the defendent to prove their innocence - English law assumes that, a basic case having been made, they are by default guilty (no, really). So, anyone who could reasonably be identified from such a picture could make a pretty good libel case against the retailer, who would then have to demonstrate that their allegation was true (i.e. that the person was, in fact, guilty of theft)!

  9. Number6

    Discussing the Evidence

    If I saw my picture up there then I'd be discussing the evidence in a libel court.

  10. Mothballs

    Extreme shopping

    Why not take things to their logical conclusion and start calling "stock shrinkage" by its real name?

  11. Anonymous Coward


    The danger is that they post people suspected of shoplifting, i.e. who might not be shoplifters. I imagine it could be argued that falsly accusing someone of shoplifting and posting their picture on a website, whether done in good faith or not, could amount to loss of reputation - what happens if your employer visited the site, for example?

    It's the same with suspected fare-dodgers or whatever - it might seem like a good idea but you have to protect the innocent, otherwise once people start suing for libel, the companies will start to feel the impact in their pockets!


  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    All scousers, robbing from a pound shop...

    You couldn't make it up.....

    Paris - cos if she was scouse at least she'd try and rob TK Maxx

  13. northern monkey

    Good god!

    What is that girl who appears to be shoplifting (but may not be - I don't wish to point fingers) from the Prescot Rd store wearing!! Perhaps they just want her on fashion crime issues rather than real crime ones.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Not wanting to support stereotypes...

    But did anyone else notice that 4 out of the 7 pictures were from stores in Liverpool.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Is it me...

    ...or are half of those pictures of people at the till..?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    How low can you go?

    Shoplifting from Home Bargains...Have you seen their LOW prices - the perps must be *really* desperate...HB can take comfort that the perps cannot afford to sue.

  17. GettinSadda

    Not exactly new

  18. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge
    Paris Hilton

    Unusual inversion?

    Unusual inversion? I don't think so. If they've got video of these people shoving stuff into their pockets and walking out (or, more boldly, walking right out with lumber etc. and driving off..) then both would be true -- they "could" be sued for libel if they were wrong. And they'll be happy to go over the evidence with anyone who wants to claim they are innocent. They're still innocent until proven guilty, but a vid of them shoplifting is really pretty open-and-shut.. The CCTV they have is higher quality than I'm used to seeing so there won't be much question of it.

  19. ThomH

    @Columbus, John 73

    A civil court action would be heard before qualified judges, and almost certainly without a jury, so you'd probably get on just fine. It's criminal stuff which tends to be held before either Magistrates (ie, local people with no legal training who have nominated themselves) or in a Crown Court before a jury — in both cases groups of people that perversely still seem willing to automatically give all police evidence a free card.

    John 73: defamation is civil, so there's no such thing as guilty, and the standard is the balance of probabilities, not the criminal standard of beyond reasonable proof. The reverse burden is troubling, but the alternative is that outlets like newspapers can print whatever they want provided that the person named can't establish that it is false. Instead the law favours that those who make statements must be able to establish that they are true. It's really not that controversial, and has been ruled not to be against Article 6 ECHR (ie, the right to a fair trial).

  20. Anonymous Coward

    It is

    not called the 'Criminal Justice' system for nothing. Double-thining sheeple. They are taking the piss out of you all day every day.

  21. Michael C

    Post a sign

    "By entering this premesis you are hereby informed CCTV is in use for surveilance purposes. Images or video footage of individuals suspected of cmitting a crime on the premesis may be circulated both to authorities and across other public mediums including but not limited to the internet in the attempt to identify said suspects. Beware your actions in this store are being recorded, and video footage associated with a known crime may be made public. You agree, by entering this establishment to waive any rights against the proprieter should images you you appear online associated with a crime. individuals captured in posted footage not associated with the crime resorded will be obscured."

    Done, problem solved.

    Of course, it;s just as easy to hand tohe footage over to police, then let THE POLICE host the images.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Bad wording?

    Couldn't they just say that they want to identify these individuals and offer an "up to £xxxx" reward without saying why?

    And how poor do you have to be to shoplift from Home Bargains? It'll be Netto, Lidl and Aldi next.

  23. Anonymous Coward


    So I'm offering to get a 'T' shirt printed with YOUR company name/Logo and contact details, go into a T J Morris store and act suspiciously...

    Who wants to start the biding for this truly unique advertising opportunity?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    then what?

    working in the retail area my peronal experience of dealing with plod(even when you give them cctv footage ) get one of these responses

    1. take it away then a week later " it doesn't work with our system"

    2. heres your crime number go away

    3. do you know there names? addres? etc if no see 2

    4. a long sigh then #2

    the annoying thing i they have plenty of time to do "sting" style ops to catch people selling underage kid stuff. this results in staff having to id older and older (now its think 25) and the end result is more threats and actual violence/robberies when you refuse service.

    again reporting it to the police leads to them arriving 7 hours later when your in the local a&e to give the current on duty staff one of the four options above

    AC for obvious reasons

  25. northern monkey

    At all the scouse bashers...

    ...I'd like to check one thing - how well known and used a store is home bargains across the country?

    In liverpool it's a particularly well known shop - having been setup here - and therefore attracts a lot of customers (and before you all start bashing people for shopping in bargain stores it makes sense, given their cheaper prices for cleaning products, etc). More customers probably ends up leading to more shoplifters and therefore a higher representation in the 'league table'.

    However given there are only 7 crimes represented in the list I hazard a guess that not all suspected shoplifters are listed - perhaps Liverpool store managers take a more no nonsense attitude which, coupled to the Liverpudlian "grass=scum" attitude, leads to a hugely biased representation.

  26. Roger Jenkins

    #Michael C

    I am no lawyer, but, my understanding is that you cannot reverse common law by merely posting a sign that says entry is acceptance of whatever terms and conditions the signee wishes.

    For instance, in this fair land, Australia, we are inundated with signs on shops that say that entry to that shop is conditional on allowing inspection of bag contents ,if requested, upon exit. Nope, they cannot do that, even if they gave you what looked like a legal contract and you sign it prior to entry, common law cannot be repealed by agreement.

  27. frank ly

    Sauce for the goose

    I genuinely believe that the managing director of T.J Morris Ltd is a paedophile. So I'm sure he'll have no problem with me putting his picture up around town with a statement to that effect. If he disagrees with me then he can come to see me and we can go through the evidence that I have.

    If he can convince me that he is not a paedophile then I'll take the pictures down. That sounds fair and reasonable to me.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "... You agree, by entering this establishment to waive any rights against the proprieter should images you you appear online associated with a crime ..."

    The problem with "contracts" such as these is that they are virtually unenforceable; the clamping / car parking trade mainly revolves around such 'contracts' and there are very few instances of judges settling in favour of the car parking company.

    Not only that but publishing photographs of people online alongside their /alleged/ offence is a sure way to get yourself on the wrong end of a libel suit. If that weren't the case you could publish photographs of the director of TJ Morris Ltd. alleging him to be a twat and their lawyers wouldn't be able to do a thing.

  29. Hollerith 1

    Local plods gave permission?

    Why would you go to the police for legal advice? They are not expects, tend not to know, and don't really care --the law is either an excuse to wield power or a hindrance to the same enjoyable pursuit.

  30. NHS IT guy


    I don't know about the ethics of this one, but the first shoplifter is hot - *would*

  31. RW

    The company name, "T J Morris", is suspicious

    Is this company a subsidiary of TJ Maxx? The names are suspiciously similar. TJ Maxx had crappy (i.e. non-existent) security on their wifi connections leading to the compromise of 50 million, possibly nearly 100 million, credit cards.

    In Canada, TJ Maxx operates under the names "Winners" and "Homesense", the latter bearing an uncanny resemblance to "Home Bargains".

    If T J Morris is part of TJ Maxx, I think we have a winner in the contest for "most technologically clueless company".

    El Reg journalists, do your duty!

  32. Joseph Gregory

    Can you sue?

    You can't sue anyone for 'suspecting' you of something or we would all be in court. Only if they directly accuse you of an offence can you sue for libel.

    A civil libel case costs at least £15,000 up front to prepare, win or lose. The company apologises the day before the case is heard and posts it on their website. Hence, end of claim. YOU still have the £15,000 bill to pay. No court case, no damages/costs.

    Before someone suggests it, 'no win, no fee' lawyers wouldn't touch it with a bargepole at 50 paces.

  33. kissingthecarpet
    Paris Hilton

    I must visit their shop

    I could do with a few quid.

    Even Paris wouldn't be as dumb as this lot

  34. frank ly

    @ NHS IT guy re. Hmmmmm

    "I don't know about the ethics of this one, but the first shoplifter is hot - *would*"

    You fancy the muscular crop haired man wearing baggy shorts and sandals...........ok, I don't have a problem with that, just wondering why you want to tell us about it.......and if you think we care.

  35. Kevin 9

    Probably Safe

    Coming from a retail management background myself, I would suspect that this company uses the same standards for arresting shoplifters as I do, that being before I make an arrest, I ask myself "Am I sure enough that this person has stolen something that I would rest my career on it?" You only get one bad apprehension where I come from before being shown the door. So if the company is sure enough to post these pictures, you can be sure they have the evidence to back it up.

  36. northern monkey


    The zeroth law of TJ shops:

    TJ Morris != T(J/K) Maxx

    T(J/K) Maxx != TJ Hughes

    therefore TJ Morris != T(J/K) Maxx

    Though (un?)interestingly both TJ Hughes and TJ Morris are founded in liverpool.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    @Graham Marsden

    You forgot the line about:

    Turn yourself in for reward>

    Then SUE.


    @Michael C - associated with a known crime

    Ah, now there's the rub. Without having actually stopped and searched the person, you have no evidence that an actual crime has been committed. Now you're asking for trouble.

    @NHS IT guy - the first shoplifter is hot

    Erm, I think you meant to say: the first ALLEGED shoplifter is hot!

    @Joseph Gregory -Only if they directly accuse you

    And putting your image up on the interweb and saying you're a shoplifter isn't an accusation? It is where I live.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    big deal - let them sue, if they can

    I've posted video on the internet of people stealing from my property. They'll have a hard job proving that that they didn't thieve anything, as it's all clearly captured on film. They even came equipped to steal.

    The thieving bastards can go whistle.

  39. martinX

    You could be a WINNER!

    Easy. The shops post pics of "valued customers who have gone into the draw for a $50 voucher. A $500 voucher is available for anyone who can identify them for us to contact them."

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Re: Sauce for the Goose

    frank ly said:

    I genuinely believe that the managing director of T.J Morris Ltd is a paedophile. So I'm sure he'll have no problem with me putting his picture up around town with a statement to that effect. If he disagrees with me then he can come to see me and we can go through the evidence that I have.

    If he can convince me that he is not a paedophile then I'll take the pictures down. That sounds fair and reasonable to me.


    Absolute genius!!

  41. Mike T
    Thumb Down


    I thought that euphemism referred to light-fingered staff.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re: Sauce for the goose

    Absolutely idiotic.

    It's not hard to find the managing director of T.J.Morris. The point behind posting these images is that they have not been able to identify the suspects and are appealing for help in doing so.

    They could easily have avoided most of the controversy by using other wording implying that the person could potentially be a witness to a crime. No doubt in this case some of them would be dumb enough to turn up and claim the reward for identifying themselves.

  43. Marvin the Martian

    Profitable scheme

    1) Get underage friends A, B and C that never shop together,

    2) All three go separately stealing in a city where they're unknown

    3) After each is caught on CCTV and the site, A identifies B who identifies C who identifies A.

    Result: some minor prosecutions that don't stand out from the rest of their convictions and ASBOs etc, plus 500quid each. Profit!

    Pickpocketing icon for obvious reasons.

  44. Graham Bartlett


    You may genuinely believe it, but do you have anything in the way of evidence? No? Then don't be so daft.

    I do like the way folks here think they're the first people to notice the potential problems. I'd be willing to bet that not only have they taken legal advice on this, but they have crystal-clear footage of these chavs filling their pockets. So "if you believe we're wrong, contact us and we'll take the pictures down" should actually be interpreted as "please do contact us, and we'll have Plod down on you so fast you won't know what hit you".

    Or, this being Liverpool: "please do contact us, and our security guards will be round tonight to give you the kicking you so rightfully deserve".

    (The bloke stashing things in his inside pocket, for obvious reasons.)

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Seriously; that's only what men claim on a cold day. Honest!

    She knows all about that problem and how to fix it.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    That bloody word again...

    "Innovative" just carries with it the odour of another New Labour solution that ignores those pesky, out of date niceties like proof, courts and innocent till proven guilty.

    There's a pattern here.If you're a business and you feel you're being hard done by, all you have to do is point the finger and accuse away, rightly or wrongly, and the government and it's hired thugs in uniform will back you to the hilt.

    Poor? - tick

    Shifty/unsympathetic looking? - tick

    Left our shop without giving us your money?- tick

    You just have to be guilty of something.

    That's one shop I'll definitely be boycotting.

  47. Anonymous Coward


    Someone mentioned Crimewatch as being the same as this case.

    But considering this statement:

    "If police put up a wanted poster, they have what is known as 'qualified privilege' and are protected in law."

    Am I correct in thinking that having police officers on the show, endorsing and even contributing to the information broadcast invokes this privilege?

    If so T J Morris are on very thin ice indeed.

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