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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77081 Find in a Library
Title: Prosecution by Private Individuals and Retail Stores
Journal: New Law Journal  Volume:131  Issue:5988  Dated:(February 12, 1981)  Pages:160-164
Author(s): K W Lidstone
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 5
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: A British study of nonpolice prosecutions of shoplifters and of the policies behind prosecutions by private individuals and retail stores is presented.
Abstract: The records of 12 magistrates' courts in England and Wales, 4 London courts, and 8 provincial courts revealed that retail stores had the fifth highest rate of nonpolice prosecutions, with 10 percent of the total number of defendants in such cases, and that private individuals ranked ninth with 2.4 percent of the defendants. An overwhelming majority of the prosecutions were for shoplifting offenses. A survey of police agencies revealed that all but two treated shoplifting as an ordinary crime to be prosecuted in the ordinary manner. However, the Metropolitan Police maintained a policy of nonprosecution because of the large number of shoplifting offenses within its jurisdiction and because some stores display their wares in such a way as to facilitate theft and should therefore shoulder the cost burden of prosecution. This policy is unjustified since other police forces which did not have a policy of nonprosecution were found to have an equivalent or higher ratio of recorded offenses to actual police strength and because stores pass prosecution costs on to the public in the form of higher prices. Further evidence revealed that some stores prosecute only if the value of stolen goods exceeds a certain figure because of the volume of such cases and because indiscriminate prosectuion was uneconomical. While the police have no statutory duty to prosecute, private citizens have a constitutional right to do so. However, usually only those persons or organizations that have the skill and financial resources available are able to exercise this right. This fact and the belief that the police are better able than private individuals or organizations to decide when prosecution is in the best interests of society lead the authors to conclude that the right of private prosecution should be abolished. Data tables are included.
Index Term(s): Citizen prosecution initiation; Great Britain/United Kingdom; Prosecution; Shoplifting; Trade practices
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