St Albans man claims victory over Sainsbury’s after handcuffing incident

A ST ALBANS shop owner is claiming victory after successfully taking on a supermarket giant when it acted on unfounded claims that he was carrying a knife in a local store.

St Albans county court recently ordered Sainsbury’s to pay nearly �4,000 to David Izzard, owner of Breaking Away/The Outdoor Store in Holywell Hill, after he lodged a small claim for emotional distress and damage to his business.

Granting a default judgement after Sainsbury’s did not reply to the claim, the court ordered the supermarket giant to pay David �3,842.50 compensation and �120 in costs.

But David’s victory could be short-lived as Sainsbury’s has since lodged an appeal against the decision with the hearing to be held at the county court tomorrow, Friday February 3.

Speaking after the default judgement David, 49, explained that he was left red-faced after police handcuffed and searched him in front of customers shopping at Sainsbury’s in Griffith Way on November 3, 2010.

Someone had incorrectly reported they believed he was carrying a weapon.

He said that he was sitting in the Sainsbury’s caf� with a coffee and piece of cake, reading a book while waiting for his wife and son, who had been at an in-store Explore Learning class when he was approached by the police.

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David said they demanded personal information and what his intentions were. As he believed he had done nothing wrong, he was reluctant to answer.

The police then allegedly told David he was acting strangely. Ordering him to stand up, they handcuffed him and searched his body and the contents of his bag.

David said the allegation that he was carrying a weapon was a “complete fantasy”.

He added: “The police didn’t arrest me, they just did a stop and search, but if you are handcuffed, you look like you are arrested. People asked me if I was arrested for shoplifting.”

Shortly after the incident a police spokeswoman told the Herts Advertiser that officers had acted in an appropriate manner, given the information they had received from a member of the public who believed they had seen him in possession of a knife.

But David was so incensed that he immediately lodged complaints with the police and demanded an apology from the supermarket chain.

Annoyed at the lack of a suitable response from both organisations, David then put in a claim against Sainsbury’s for emotional stress, damage to his reputation and loss of earnings.

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s said this week: “The safety of customers and colleagues shopping and working in our stores is a priority for us. We’ve looked into the events of that day and given that a member of the public thought Mr Izzard was carrying a knife, it was absolutely appropriate that we called the police to investigate.”

She pointed out that as the police had said at the time, when presented with information that a man might be carrying a weapon, the prime concern was to protect the public, themselves and the person under suspicion.

Both the store and area manager had since spoken to David, asking to meet and apologise directly to him, but he had “not taken up that offer”.

The spokeswoman said that due to an administrative error judgement was entered in default against Sainsbury’s.

She added: “We have asked the court to require Mr Izzard to set out the legal basis upon which he is claiming over �3,500. This is the purpose of the hearing on February 3.”

The police said they were unable to comment on the incident.