A workplace lawyer has revealed the importance of reporting suspected crimes to the police, even if the delicacy of doing so against a customer or employee makes it difficult to do so.
According to Geoff Baldwin of Stacks Law Firm, there are two key factors at play when it comes to reporting potential crimes on business premises or involving business assets.
First and foremost is that there is a legal obligation to do so.
“If it’s clear to you that a crime has been committed – and it is not always clear to people that a crime has been committed… you do have an obligation under the common law to report it to the police,” Mr Baldwin told My Business.
Despite this legal obligation, however, he suggested that “very few people get prosecuted for not reporting things”.
The second point, however, comes down to the business and its owners protecting themselves should more serious events occur down the track, such as the need to terminate an employee for serious misconduct.
“From a business point of view [you may need to] come back later on and say that you did all these bad things, but [if you don’t report it at the time] the other side responds with ‘well if it’s as bad as that, why didn’t you report it to the police?’,” Mr Baldwin explained.
“If you have a situation where you think a crime has been committed, you should report it to the police and the police will give you what they call an event number.”
By having that record that the issue was previously reported, Mr Baldwin said the business then has proof should it be required in future.
But it also takes the emphasis of responsibility off the business and hands it to the police, so that if someone questions or raises concerns about the issue, you can respond with “it’s not up to me to make judgements about possible criminal behaviour, that’s up to police”, he said.
Mr Baldwin cautioned that there is also a difference between criminal acts – such as theft and fraud – and civil ones which generally fall outside of police jurisdiction, such as hate speech or defamation.
His comments come after he previously spoke about the legal responsibility employers have to ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace – not just employees but also customers, suppliers and others – and how these obligations come into play when resolving abusive situations.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.