Legal risk in social media ‘retaliation’

WAGGA retailers are exposing themselves to potential legal repercussions as they embark on a social media fightback against shoplifters.

Store owners posting CCTV footage on social media in a bid to name and shame thieves could easily find themselves litigated, according to a prominent solicitor. 

Patrick Boylen has warned against the method of retaliation.

He said people on Facebook or Twitter do not appreciate that they are publishers

“Owners who do this, they are suggesting that ‘this person is a criminal, do you know them?’ ’’ he said.

“If they are wrong about that, then it’s defamatory.’

“Shop keepers are not trained in media law but yet 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.”

However, some retailers believe the fightback has been so successful in deterring crime that they will not stop.

Cotmakers, Mark Anthony's and Blooms are just some of the local outlets which have engaged in the emerging trend.

“The intention of this post was to correctly identify the person and to reaffirm that shoplifting will not be tolerated,” a spokesperson for Blooms said, defending the decision to out an alleged thief. 

Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data released last week revealed police in Wagga charge approximately one person with shoplifting every day.