Video captured the arrest of a woman in Not For Long last year. (Contributed photo)

Video captured the arrest of a woman in Not For Long last year. (Contributed photo)

Alleged shoplifting incident no longer of public interest, Crown finds

BC Prosecution Service explains legal process after South Surrey sting operation

The British Columbia Prosecution Service (BCPS) has provided more details on why the Crown dropped charges against a woman who was suspected of shoplifting after a sting operation at a South Surrey maternity store last year.

Dan McLaughlin, Communications counsel for the BCPS, emailed Peace Arch News this week, explaining that charges were dropped because the “public interest no longer required a prosecution.”

McLaughlin notes the Crown follows charge assessment guidelines, and that there must be a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the investigating agency; and a prosecution must be required in the public interest.

“This test applies to all stages of the prosecution. If, at any point, the prosecutor concludes that the evidentiary standard is no longer met or that a prosecution is no longer required in the public interest a prosecution cannot proceed,” McLaughlin writes. “In this case the prosecutor concluded the test was no longer met with respect to the public interest and directed the stay of proceedings.”

Not For Long, a maternity and consignment store in Ocean Park, set up a sting with hidden cameras after 75 pairs of shoes – worth approximately $3,500 – were stolen in the previous year. Employees invited their suspected shoplifter to the store on Feb. 20, 2017, and secretly filmed the woman as she wandered the store.

“You saw her take the shoes, hold it down beside her, walk around, and then she would just pop it in her bag and keep looking at something else,” store owner Laura Woroniecki told PAN. “She left the building with the shoes. At that point, I contacted the RCMP.”

At the time of arrest, White Rock RCMP Const. Chantal Sears told PAN the woman “was in possession of many items, with new tags from various businesses.”

The suspect was charged with two counts of theft under $5,000.

Woroniecki learned last week that both charges were dropped.

In a Facebook post Saturday sharing the initial PAN article announcing dropped charges more than a dozen people commented with frustration.

“Extremely disappointing,” Janet Peers commented on the PAN Facebook page. “Where’s the justice in this? Shop owners just trying to make an honest living.”

“Very frustrating,” Phillip Warner commented. “The courts dropping even minor charges like this will not discourage people from stealing as there is little to no consequences.”