Asda says ‘sorry’ to Larne man wrongly accused of theft

Neil Brownlee.  INLT 20-653-CON
Neil Brownlee. INLT 20-653-CON

Asda has issued an apology to a Larne man who was wrongly accused of stealing groceries from the supermarket in Larne.

Neil Brownlee was charged with theft following an incident at the Redlands Road store last year.

The 49-year-old explained: “I was doing some shopping and on this occasion I used one of the self-service tills, which I don’t normally use.

“I had some trouble getting the card payment to go through, but after the fourth attempt I thought it had been successful, so I left with my groceries.”

Mr Brownlee was shocked to get a phone call from police a week later, saying he was being investigated for making off without paying.

“I told police it must have been a genuine mistake and offered to reimburse Asda,” he added.

“But I was later informed that it had been upgraded to theft, which was just ludicrous.”

Mr Brownlee was arrested and later charged with theft of groceries totalling £43.

And while the case against him was eventually dismissed, following a contest at Ballymena Magistrates Court, he said the experience has had a profound impact on his life.

“My family and I have suffered a lot of stress through this preposterous allegation,” he told the Times.

“The whole ordeal of having to go through the courts to clear my name has upset me greatly. I have no criminal record for anything and it was an honest mistake.

“Is it Asda’s policy to criminalise honest loyal customers who spend over £300 per week in their store?

“I was Asda’s unofficial first customer when it first opened here in Larne, and even now, after all that has happened, I still shop there regularly.”

The Cymric Drive man is now urging shoppers to be cautious when using self-service tills.

“I am not the first person this has happened to. I know other people who have done the same thing and went back to the store later to fix the problem,” Mr Brownlee added.

“I only wish this could have been resolved a long time ago, without the need for courtroom drama,”

A spokesperson from Asda told the Times: “We’re sorry for any distress caused to Mr Brownlee and his family.”