Personal Searches

8 July 2015

In summer 2014, a Kent-based cash processing company noticed that money was going missing. It became suspicious of one particular employee and began to monitor him using its internal CCTV system. It was observed that the employee concerned would frequently take breaks, and this further aroused their suspicions.

The employee was stopped by security staff and was asked to turn out his pockets. It was found that he was carrying five £50 notes concealed within a chocolate bar wrapper. The company immediately called the police. The officers undertook a further search of the employee’s car and, upon finding more chocolate bar wrappers, arrested him on suspicion of theft. He denied the allegation during a police interview, claiming that he had eaten the chocolate at his desk and the money must have been caught up in the wrapper by accident.

Needless to say, this claim was far-fetched. He eventually pleaded guilty to theft and has been jailed for 21 months. Had the company acted differently, things may not have turned out quite so favourably.

There is no legal right to touch an employee or go through their possessions (although refusal to consent to a reasonable search may be taken into account during a disciplinary investigation). The company in this instance therefore did exactly the right thing by contacting the police. The police were legitimately able to conduct a search of the employee’s car and the subsequent police investigation eventually led to a jail sentence. Had the employer gone ahead with a search of the employee that he had not consented to, they could have been the ones on the receiving end of criminal proceedings, rather than him.

Alpha can assist with all aspects of employment legislation. If an Alpha member suspects an employee of stealing, we are able to talk them through the processes required, step by step. Alpha can benefit your business too. For more information, please feel free to contact us.


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