Business Review Owner Foils Supermarket Heist, Crosses Legal Limits

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In the heart of Auckland, Todd Scott found himself responding instinctively to a distressing scene unfolding in a local supermarket. The owner of the National Business Review encountered a highly aggressive individual who, strongly suspected of intoxication, was acting out violently against the staff of the Countdown Metro and attempting to flee with stolen boxes of alcohol.

Scott, who was simply at the Lower Albert Street store for refreshments and treats for his office team, took action. “This massive boof of a man was abusing the staff and stealing alcohol,” Scott described. Unable to ignore the situation, he tackled the man down, with the supermarket’s security guard nearby as a supporting figure.

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“I was the only person to restrain the individual on the ground,” Scott expressed, describing how he held the individual down for a forceful ten minutes while the supermarket manager dialed the police. However, Scott was taken aback when the manager softly relayed the police’s advice into his ear – he was to let the thief go.

The store manager’s subtle manner of communication allowed Scott to maintain the upper hand, allowing him to keep up the pretense of the imminent arrest in front of the suspected thief. “This allowed me the upper hand, as the individual thought he was going to jail,” Scott said.

However, the situation abruptly took a perplexing turn. The police were unable to respond to the scene and Scott was informed he was unable to make a citizen’s arrest. Surprisingly, he found himself at risk of arrest for assault. “I invited the cop to arrest me if I had broken the law. He said I could be done for assault – but the victim, the thief, would have to lay charges,” he shared.

Later, when Scott discussed the incident with an officer on the street (which he documented on social media), the law enforcer agreed with the small but significant lesson Scott learned that day – don’t get involved and ensure personal safety. All while his conversation with the store management and security was ongoing, another man was spotted making an unsuccessful exit with three more unpaid alcohol boxes.

“If more people with the ability to do what I did today could do so without breaking the law, fewer people would get away with breaking the law,” Scott reflected. In the aftermath, however, civil liberties law specialist Michael Bott pointed out the offbeat subtleties of the law, explaining how Scott found himself in a legal grey area when he plunged into action.

According to Bott, the “shield of immunity” in an attempted citizen’s arrest only applies during specific hours and for serious offenses punishable by more than three years’ imprisonment. As such, a case of shoplifting where the goods don’t exceed a certain value, does not qualify for a citizen’s arrest. Scott’s heroic act, it seemed, had unintentionally crossed legal boundaries.