Sun. May 26th, 2024
alert-–-high-flying-lawyer-sues-sainsbury’s-for-25,000-slander-damages-after-security-guard-wrongly-accuses-him-of-shoplifting-in-front-of-crowd-of-50-onlookersAlert – High-flying lawyer sues Sainsbury’s for £25,000 slander damages after security guard wrongly accuses him of shoplifting in front of crowd of 50 onlookers

A high-flying lawyer is suing Sainsbury’s for £25,000 in damages, claiming that a security guard wrongly accused him of shoplifting in front of a crowd of 50 people.

London solicitor Andrew Jonathan Milne is demanding the compensation for defamation of character because he claims the security guard told him ‘You are a thief, you are a shoplifter, you should be in jail’ in front of onlookers.

Mr Milne, who is the boss of City law firm Andrew Milne & Co, said he paid for his items and was walking back to his car when he was allegedly defamed by the ‘shouting’ guard.

The lawyer, who grew up not far from the store in Prenton, Merseyside, said it was ‘highly likely that many who witnessed the incident recognised him’.

Mr Milne, filing the claim at the High Court in London, said there had been ‘serious harm’ to his reputation and he ‘was and continues to be deeply embarrassed’ by it.

London solicitor Andrew Milne, pictured outside the High Court in London in 2020, is suing Sainsbury’s for £25,000 in damages over claims that a security guard called him a shoplifter

The solicitor from The Wirral, Merseyside, claims the incident happened on Woodchurch Road, Prenton, in June 2022.

His barrister, William Bennett KC, said: ‘The man shouted the following words which defamed [Mr Milne], “Stop, thief. You are a thief. You are a shoplifter. You should be in jail. I am arresting you for shoplifting. You are a thief… you are stealing my bag… you have stolen goods in your bag. I am arresting you, thief”.

‘The volume of the man’s shouting and the nature of the accusations he was making against [Mr Milne] attracted the attention of approximately 50 people who were in the vicinity of the doors to the store and the car park and within earshot of the man. 

‘It was obvious that the accusations being made by him were directed at [Mr Milne].

‘[Mr Milne] then walked to the store, where he complained about what had happened.’

Mr Bennett says the words used by the guard suggested that Mr Milne had committed a criminal offence and so caused ‘serious harm’ to his reputation.

He said: ‘[Mr Milne] had been brought up in the area around Prenton and continues to visit it.

‘He was the head server at the local parish church and the head boy of a local school. He is therefore well known in the Prenton area.

The solicitor claims the incident happened on Woodchurch Road in Prenton in June 2022

‘[Mr Milne] recognised the faces of about one third of the people who witnessed the incident and heard the words complained of.

‘It is highly likely that many who witnessed the incident recognised [Mr Milne] as being from that area and that some would have known him by name.

‘And it is highly likely that, as [Mr Milne] goes about his business in the area local to the supermarket, he will again encounter the witnesses to the incident who will believe that he is a shoplifter.

‘[Mr Milne] was and continues to be deeply embarrassed by the publication of the words complained of.’

But lawyers for Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd are defending the claim, arguing that ‘no real harm or damage’ was done and that his claim is ‘bound to fail’.

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They also argue that the security guard had ‘a social, legal and/or moral duty…to prevent theft’ and should be protected from being sued on that basis.

Defending the supermarket chain, Lily Walker-Parr accepted that Mr Milne had made a genuine purchase, but says the guard – who worked for a security contractor – was only doing his job.

She said: ‘As [Mr Milne] exited the store, the security alarms began to sound, indicating that he was in possession of goods that he had not paid for.

‘The security guard approached [Mr Milne] and asked [him] to accompany him back to the store. 

‘However, [Mr Milne] refused and tried to walk away, at which point the security guard asked [him] again to return to the store.

‘The words complained of and the circumstances of the alleged publication are not admitted.

‘If the words are alleged to have been spoken by the security guard, he was an employee of a third-party company, with which [Sainsbury’s] had entered into a contract on 18 November 2021 to supply security services, including in its Woodchurch Road store.

‘The security guard therefore carried on the business of his employer and not that of [Sainsbury’s].

‘In the alternative…there was a social, legal and/or moral duty on the security guard to prevent theft, namely shoplifting. 

‘There was also a corresponding interest on the part of members of the public in the immediate vicinity, in receiving information which could cause them to assist in the immediate apprehension of suspected shoplifters.

‘There is unlikely to be any continuing reputational harm, if there ever was. The words were allegedly spoken over one year ago to individuals who likely did not know [Mr Milne].

‘Even if [Mr Milne] was at one time the head server at the local parish church and the head boy of a local school, which are not admitted, it is denied that this would result in [him] t being well known ‘in the Prenton area’ from 2022 onwards.

‘They are historical, decades-old accolades achieved when [Mr Milne] was a schoolchild, and he is therefore unlikely to be known or remembered by a substantial number, or indeed any, of the alleged publishees on this basis.

‘[Mr Milne] has not identified any real harm suffered beyond a bare plea of embarrassment.

‘The claim is bound to fail and/or is not worth the candle, in that the costs and court time required by this litigation are likely to be disproportionate to the minimal, if any, vindication obtained.’

The contents of the documents lodged with the court have yet to be tested in evidence in front of a judge.

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