Security practices: Unlawful detention and legal implications

video evidence
24 Jan 2024


In a society grappling with heightened crime rates, particularly theft, the safeguarding of business premises becomes imperative. However, this vigilance often leads to the unjust profiling of patrons, raising concerns about arbitrary detentions. This article examines the legal ramifications of such detentions, emphasising the delicate balance between individual liberties and the authority wielded by law enforcement, private security, and business owners.

In Emordi and Another v FBS Security Services (Pty) Ltd and Others, the matter centered on the alleged wrongful detention of Mrs. Emordi and her 16-month-old daughter following a shoplifting incident at a Shoprite store. The trial focused on establishing the lawfulness of the detention, determining liability, and addressing potential indemnity for Shoprite. The Emordis claimed violations of their constitutional rights, seeking damages for various losses, while the defendants argued the detention was lawful due to suspected theft.

Evidence led

The credibility of witness testimonies played a pivotal role in the trial. Mrs. Emordi provided a detailed account of her shopping experience, detention, and subsequent arrest, refuting allegations of theft. Supporting evidence from security guards, floorwalkers, and the store manager aimed to substantiate the defendants’ perspective. However, the court criticised the lack of preserved video evidence and highlighted the questionable practice of deleting footage after 30 days.

Court decision

The court, focusing on the absence of crucial video evidence, questioned the validity of the allegations against Mrs. Emordi. It concluded that she did not steal from Shoprite but had purchased the items elsewhere. The court also cast doubt on the accuracy of the floorwalker’s account, citing discrepancies and a lack of supporting evidence. Ultimately, specific defendants, including Mr. Lebeta and Mrs. Fourie, were held liable for the unlawful detention of Mrs. Emordi. The Minister of Police was found liable for any damages incurred after Mrs. Emordi’s arrest.


This case underscores the importance of evidence, witness credibility, and adherence to legal standards in addressing theft allegations. The court’s critique of the handling of the case, particularly the failure to preserve video evidence, serves as a cautionary tale for businesses and security services. Individuals who find themselves in similar situations are encouraged to seek legal counsel to navigate the complexities of security practices and potential legal repercussions.

Article sourced from SchoemanLaw Inc.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Msizi Mhlongo

Msizi Mhlongo obtained his LLB degree from the University of Zululand in 2017. He joined SchoemanLaw Inc as a Senior Professional Assistant in October 2023 and was admitted into practice... Read more about Msizi Mhlongo


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