United Co-operatives says it has made legal history by obtaining a civil court injunction that bans two problem customers from entering its stores.
The Staffordshire-based co-op, the second largest in the UK, has had Darren Boote and Joy
McKay banned from all 23 of its stores within Stoke-on-Trent by Stoke-on-Trent County Court.
The court heard that the pair had come into the society’s stores on a daily basis in a “reign of terror” over a 10-year period, intimidating the staff and other customers as well as shoplifting.
Security manager Bill Edwards started to compile a detailed dossier of their offences two years ago. This went on to become the basis of a court action under The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which cost the society £25,000.
Edwards said: “This is a landmark for us. We have served exclusion notices previously on these individuals to no effect.”
The injunction, which runs for 12 months, restrains the pair from assaulting, molesting, harassing, threatening, pestering or otherwise interfering with United Co-op, its employees and its customers, and from communicating with the co-op in any way or coming within 25 feet of its premises.
If either Boote or McKay breaks the terms of the injunction, they can be arrested.
The society is now examining its records to compile a list of other “customers who terrorise on a similar level”.
Edwards said: “Our stand also shows other retailers across the region that there is another option. There is generally a reluctance to spend this sort of money, but we believe that the safety of our staff outweighs the costs involved.”
Circuit Judge Eades told the court: “I am satisfied that both the defendants have committed acts of harassment against the complainants and their employees.”
Joel Heap, associate with law firm Cobbetts, which acted for United Co-operatives, said: “Behaviour of this nature amounts to harassment, pure and simple. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was brought in to prevent such behaviour and gives retailers in this position the right to seek an injunction.
“The practical significance of an injunction under the Act is that any breach by the defendant is an arrestable offence. It gives the police the power to arrest immediately those in breach of the order.”
Anne Bruce