BY BRYAN LITTLELY
RETAILERS are increasingly exposing themselves to potential legal action as they embark on a Facebook fightback against shoplifters.
A growing trend among store owners to post CCTV footage on social media in a bid to name and shame shoplifters could easily backfire, lawyers have warned.
But some shop owners say the practice is too successful in deterring opportunistic crimes to stop.
The Surf Shop, Victor Harbor, owner Matt Parry has used social media regularly over the past two years to show shoplifters being caught in the act. It has led to about 10 being caught and dealt with by police.
The latest shoplifting post by The Surf Shop, put on Facebook on Sunday, was viewed by more than 20,000 people in the space of days and led to the culprits turning themselves in on Tuesday and paying for the goods they stole.
Mr Parry said he only posted a small number of the shoplifters caught on camera in his three retail outlets in the coastal town.
“With three stores, every second or third day something happens,’’ Mr Parry said.
“I think eventually something legally will happen to a retailer but we’re sick of getting shoplifted.
“At the end of the day, people stole from me. There’s signs in my shops that make it clear that if you steal from this shop you can expect to be named and shamed.’’
The CCTV footage of the teenage girls who on Tuesday admitted to their shoplifting has been removed and a message sent on Facebook reads: “We have just been contacted by the two girls who recently stole from one of our stores. Unfortunately it took a Facebook video to go viral for them to come forward and pay for the goods that were stolen. The photos and videos have since been removed. We have a zero tolerance on shoplifting at any of our stores, offenders will be caught and they will be publicly humiliated.”
DBH Lawyers partner Patrick Boylen warns against the practice.
“Shop owners who do this are suggesting ‘This person is a criminal, do you know them?’ ’’ he said. “If they are wrong about that, that is defamatory.’’
“The shop keepers are not trained in media law but they are publishing. You have the usual defence of truth and honestly-held opinion — so long as it is not done in a hurtful way — but they are potentially in a fair bit of trouble if they get it wrong. It is very risky.’’