A trip to the shops is a fairly innocuous activity. It’s hard to associate popping down the road to pick up a loaf of bread and a pint of milk with aggressive or unlawful behaviour, but as experience has once again shown us – there are exceptions to every rule. Here are seven perfect examples of how stopping in at your local supermarket can result in a trip to the big house.
7) Using The Shop As A Place To Store Drugs
This might seem obvious, and I suppose it is – using your local corner shop as a safe-house is illegal, and a very, very bad idea. So a 60-year-old man from Penrith, Australia, found out in 2011, when he was arrested after a quantity of white powder (believed to be cocaine) was discovered in an unaddressed package in a Stafford Street shop. The bemused shopkeeper opened the parcel believing it to be intended for him, and alerted police, who later picked up the culprit.
6) Selling Smuggled Cigarettes & Tobacco
According to John Whiting of HMRC, tobacco smuggling is a worldwide criminal industry, which costs taxpayers millions every year. It’s unsurprising, then, that a man was arrested after over four and a half thousand smuggled cigarettes and nine kilograms of rolling tobacco were retrieved from beneath a shop counter in Northern Ireland in November 2011. A search of the surrounding area later revealed over thirty thousand more cigarettes, stashed inside two vehicles parked nearby.
5) Fleeing From Police
If you head out for a drive in an uninsured, unregistered car, under the influence of alcohol, fail to stop at a junction, put your foot down when police try to pull you over, break down the gate of a private compound and then take off on foot, then hiding out in a shop won’t save you. A 53-year-old Canadian man discovered that to his cost in June 2011, when police caught up with him at a local supermarket. After a clash with an officer, the man found himself facing charges for assault of a police officer, refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test, failing to stop for police, and violation of a driving prohibition.
4) Taking Up-Skirt Photographs Of Fellow Shoppers
Surreptitiously slipping your camera phone under a female shopper’s skirt and taking secret pictures is understandably a serious offence. 37-year-old doctor Adrian Tern Song was struck off the medical register in November 2011, and sentenced to three years of community service with requirements of supervision, and was also forced to sign the sex offenders register. Song tried to walk away from victim after her companion alerted her to his actions, but was intercepted and held by shop security.
3) Selling Forged Graduation Certificates
Two members of staff at a shop in Johannesburg were also arrested in November 2011, after it was discovered that they were selling fake ‘matric’ certificates – South Africa’s equivalent of a qualification between GCSE and A-Level. One of the certificates, just one of a number of forged documents available from the pair, were purchased for just over £150 by the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation in an undercover investigation. The culprits were remanded in custody over Christmas, to appear in court in January.
2) Exchanging Currency Above The Official Pegged Rate
For some time now, the Maldives have been held in the grip of a US dollar shortage so severe that Maldivian banks would periodically refuse to exchange Maldivian Rufiyaa for USD at the official rate. The upshot of this situation is that citizens of the Maldives who are in need of American currency are forced to use illegal exchange services. In March 2011, an arrest was made when an unidentified man was found to be exchanging Rufiyaa for USD at a shop unlicensed for such transactions, and at a higher rate than the national pegged ratio.
1) Being Given The Zig-Zag
Unlike the other entries on this list, this example isn’t down to unlawful action on the part of the individual in question. You might have heard of the ‘zig-zag scam‘, often carried out in airports in Thailand – a confidence trick carried out by corrupt shop attendants and police officers (sometimes the ‘police’ are even impostors). In 2009, British couple Stephen Ingram and Xi Lin were accused by staff of shoplifting a Givenchy wallet at a duty-free store in Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. The pair were taken into custody by a group claiming to be police, and were not released until they had handed over £8,000.
Other notable recent examples of the zig-zag scam include an Australian teacher accused of stealing a doughnut and an Irish scientist who was said to have stolen an eyeliner pencil.
So the next time you visit a shop, you might want to keep an eye out for forged documents, drug-filled parcels and camera-wielding perverts – not to mention dodgy till attendants who might slip a little something extra into your bag so they can detain you for shoplifting. But for all that, you might be surprised at what won’t necessarily get you arrested in a shop:
Playing Naked Poker In A Shop Window
In spite of prominent indecent exposure cases (the 1995 Milwaukee arrest of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong for baring his backside during a show, for instance) November 2011 saw New York’s ‘Art In General’ gallery play host to a naked poker tournament – in full view of passersby. Zefrey Throwell, the artist responsible for the event, hoped to ‘illuminate a dark cranny in the financial world‘. Whether or not he succeeded is perhaps a matter of perspective.
This article was contributed on behalf of Lemon & Co. solicitiors in Swindon. For legal advice on a range of topics, visit the Lemon & Co. website.