Australia: Why you should always report a crime in a business to police

Last Updated: 27 February 2019
Article by Geoff Baldwin

Sometimes, when a crime or a suspected crime has been committed in a workplace, managers and owners are unsure whether to proceed with reporting it to the police.

Hesitation to report may occur due to a number of factors. These can include believing it is a waste of time and effort to make an official report, for either the manager or the police, or because of the potential difficulties that may arise from damaged relationships with an employee or a customer, or due to a perceived lack of evidence to prove a crime actually occurred.

Despite this, if you suspect a crime has occurred on your business premises or involving your business assets, you should report it for a number of reasons.

Responsibility to report a crime under common law and as an employer

First and foremost, there is a legal obligation under the common law to report that a crime has been committed to the police. Although very few people get prosecuted for not reporting, the obligation is there nonetheless.

You have a further obligation, as an employer, to take responsibility for reporting a suspected crime. This is because you have a duty to your employees as well as to your customers, suppliers and others to ensure they can work or conduct business in a safe environment.

Reporting the crime serves to protect your business

Another point comes down to protecting yourself and your business should more serious events occur down the track, such as the need to terminate an employee for serious misconduct. If you chose not to report the incident, you cannot then use it as further grounds for enforcing ramifications, including dismissal.

Finally, reporting the incident serves to take the some of the responsibility off the business and hand it to the police, so that if someone questions or raises concerns about the issue, you can rightfully tell them it is up to the police to investigate such behaviour, not you.

Process for reporting a crime to police

Ultimately, it is up to the police, not you, to make the judgement call about whether to proceed with investigating and potentially prosecuting.

If you have a situation where you think a crime has been committed, you should report it to the police immediately. This may involve calling the local police station or turning up there  in person to tell them what happened.

The police may not make a judgement about whether to proceed with investigating the incident immediately. But they will listen to you and give you an event number. This event number is very important, as it is proof that you have done your duty by reporting what happened.

Leave it to police to conduct an investigation

It is vital that you do not try to investigate the incident or matter yourself. This is because you could potentially tip off the perpetrator that you are aware of the suspected crime, which could lead to evidence being destroyed or even damaging the potential for prosecution.

Geoff Baldwin
Employment law
Stacks Champion

After you have made the report, ensure that you ask the police to tell you if they will follow up, as even if they do not want to do anything further, you may then want to pursue your own investigation or enforce consequences for the behaviour as the manager or owner of the business.

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