I was branded a 'thief' by Sainsbury's worker who said I should be JAILED – I did nothing wrong so I'm taking action | The Sun

A LAWYER claiming he was wrongly branded a thief by a Sainsbury's security guard is taking action against the supermarket chain.

Andrew Jonathan Milne, a London-based solicitor, says he was confronted and told he "should be in jail" in front of 50 onlookers.

But he says he had lawfully paid for the items at the store on the Wirral, Merseyside, in June last year.

Andrew is now demanding £25,000 in libel damages over claims he was "defamed" by the "shouting" security guard.

The lawyer says he grew up close to the store and, therefore, "it's highly likely that many who witnessed the incident recognised him".

He says "serious harm was caused to his reputation" and he "was and continues to be deeply embarrassed" about it.

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But lawyers for Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd are defending the claim and argue "no real harm or damage" was done, adding that it is "bound to fail".

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

In papers lodged with London's High Court, Andrew's barrister William Bennett KC said the incident occurred at a store in Woodchurch Road, Prenton, in June 2022.

Andrew had paid for some items and was heading to the car park when he was confronted by a man shouting.

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They allegedly shouted: "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."

Documents submitted to the court add: "The volume of the man's shouting and the nature of the accusations he was making against the claimant 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 the claimant.

"The claimant then walked to the store, where he complained about what had happened."

Mr Bennett KC says the words used by the guard suggested Andrew had committed a criminal offence and so caused "serious harm" to his reputation.

He adds: "The claimant 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 claimant 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 the claimant as being from that area and that some would have known him by name.

"And it is highly likely that, as the claimant 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.

"The claimant was and continues to be deeply embarrassed by the publication of the words complained of."

But Lily Walker-Parr, representing Sainsbury's, said that while Andrew had made a genuine purchase, the guard – who worked for a security contractor – was only doing his job.

She adds: "As the claimant 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 the claimant and asked the claimant to accompany him back to the store.

"However, the claimant refused and tried to walk away, at which point the security guard asked the claimant 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 the defendant had entered into a contract on November 18, 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 the defendant."

Ms Walker-Parr continued: "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 the claimant."

She also claimed Andrew being head boy of a local school and head server of a local parish church did not equate to being well-known in the area.

Ms Walker-Parr said: "The claimant has not identified any real harm suffered beyond a bare plea of embarrassment.

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"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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