30 October, 2014
Forbes has successfully defended a claim on behalf of a major retailer where it was alleged that the Claimant had been manhandled by security guards and had sustained personal injuries. It was alleged that the action of the Defendant's staff was not proportionate and that the conduct of staff amounted to a trespass to the person or in the alternative false imprisonment.
The Claimant had been banned from the supermarket store following a previous incident when he had been threatening to members of staff. On the day of the incident the Claimant had sought access to the store to speak to the manager to ask that his ban be lifted. He was permitted to enter but he soon became aggressive and started spitting. It was known that the Claimant suffered from Hepatitis C. The Claimant then approached the guard in a threatening manner and pushed his face into the face of the guard. The security guard took steps to restrain the Claimant and the police were called.
The question before the court was whether there was any need for the security guard to engage physically with the Claimant and if so were his actions reasonable and proportionate? The Judge found the security guard did not overuse force; he was backing away and avoiding confrontation. All of his actions were consistent. He found he was a perfectly pleasant individual with no malice and the Judge accepted that he was faced with the Claimant in an agitated state, using abusive and threatening language. The security guard was concerned for the safety of others, and his actions were therefore reasonable and proportionate. The Claimant's injuries were the result of his own struggle. The claim was therefore dismissed and the Defendant awarded its costs.
Retailers are placed in a difficult position by aggressive and potentially violent customers. Security colleagues and other personnel need to approach such situations carefully. They need to understand what they can and cannot do before they try to arrest or detain violent customers.
This is a complex area of law and represents a potential minefield for retailers, for further advice or information please contact Ian Howard by email or on 01257 240695