A London-based lawyer is reportedly seeking £25,000 in damages, claiming he was falsely accused of shoplifting in front of a crowd of 50 people.
Andrew Jonathan Milne, who runs law firm Andrew Milne & Co, has brought a claim for defamation against supermarket giant Sainsbury’s following an incident in one of its stores in Merseyside.
The experienced solicitor, who grew up not far from the store, alleges that a security guard told him: “You are a thief, you are a shoplifter, you should be in jail’, in front of fellow shoppers.
Milne says he paid for the items and was walking back to his vehicle when the alleged incident occurred, the Mail Online reports. He also argues that it was “highly likely that many who witnessed the incident recognised him”.
Milne’s barrister, 5RB’s William Bennett KC, reportedly 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 [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,” the top silk added.
Bennett KC argued that the words allegedly used by the security guard had implied that Milne had committed a criminal offence and so caused “serious harm” to his reputation.
But Sainsbury’s lawyers deny the claim, arguing that it is “bound to fail” because Milne has suffered “no real harm or damage”. They also argue the guard had “a social, legal and/or moral duty…to prevent theft” and as result, should be protected from any potential legal action”.
5RB’s Lily Walker-Parr, for Sainsbury’s, reportedly accepted Milne had paid for his items but that the security guard was only doing his job.
The barrister said the store’s security alarm was triggered after Milne had exited the store. “The security guard approached [Milne] and asked [him] to accompany him back to the store,” she said. “However, [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,” she continued.
Walker-Parr also argued that the security guard was an employee of a “third-party company” and was therefore representing his employer rather than Sainsbury’s.
The barrister said “there is unlikely to be any continuing reputational harm, if there ever was, and that “the words were allegedly spoken over one year ago to individuals who likely did not know” Milne.