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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 70696
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I am in the military. I found a mobile phone on the floor

Resolved Question:

Hi
I am in the military. I found a mobile phone on the floor in work. Nobody claimed the device. We work in a gated and secure compound so there was no reason to seek an owner beyond our workforce. After 4 days I decided to sell the phone to an online phone recycler.
I then discovered that the phone was one of approximately 100 devices gifted to our unit from the police. It must have fallen out of the box or been misplaced before it was accounted for. I immediately informed the online phone recycler that I required the phone back and they were to cease processing the phone.
They continued to process it and it obviously came back blacklisted as lost or stolen. I rang again to request the phone and they pointed out that they were obliged to hold the phone for 28 days then hand it in to the police. Their terms and conditions state that the device would be "destroyed", and gave no mention of handing it in to the police.
I am obviously embarrassed and feel terrible that I have tried to sell this phone, given the circumstances. It was entirely innocent, I tried to find the owner, it is not officially accounted for anywhere. I do not want my details handed into the police as this would reflect badly upon my employer and I would ideally like to get the phone back.
Where do I stand legally, and what steps should I take from here?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Hi.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
Are you asking if you can prevent them making a report?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Ideally I would like to get the phone back to prevent this going any further.If I cannot get the device back I at least want to make sure my name isn't attached to it as the phone goes through the police system. I essentially don't want any embarrassment coming back onto my unit and therefore myself.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Well, that is realistic I'm afraid.
Come what may, the phone is in their possession and they cannot be prevented from making a report. Whether they will or not is up to them but it is likely in the circumstances.
I presume there is a nexus to you and so it would be fairly easy for the police to identify you which is their inevitable intention.
That doesn't mean you will be charged. Probably they will invite you in for interview about this.
I think, overall, if you can satisfy them that you did make reasonable enquiries it is quite unlikely they would prosecute. Their suspicion will be that you have just stolen it from your employer but if there is no official trace of that you would have a sound defence. In addition to that it isn't really consistent with theft from employer that you would advertise the presence of this phone to the entire workforce.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I don't understand how you can say I stole it from my employer if my employer didn't say it was theirs, there was no record of it and I had asked everyone who worked in or around that area. I honestly believed the phone was abandoned. When I charged it there were no contents on the phone- it was just awaiting initial set up.Is there nothing to come from the fact I expressly stated that upon receipt of the phone they were not to process it, yet they went ahead and did so anyway?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
At the present time my employer doesn't even know that they should have the phone. The police literally hand over a box of phones and we pretty much destroy them up after building them into training bombs. My employer never knew how many or what phones they received. They just accept the box and we use them whenever we need.As soon as I realised it was from one of those boxes I asked for the phone back so I could return it. There must be something I can do? Are they allowed to share my personal details without permission? Can they process a phone like that after I expressly forbid it?
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Yes, they are allowed to do that.
Yes, they can and they will for the reasons above.
I think your employer is quite likely to be co-operative when the police ask them for a statement.
Whether that will lead to a charge or not is another matter as I have explained above.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Furthermore, can they hand it over when their terms and conditions state:iGadgetsrecycled reserves the right to destroy any lost / stolen handsets that appear on the 'check mend' database if they haven't been claimed by their subsequent owners after 28 days. UK legislation states that we cannot under any circumstances return or pay for a mobile phone or device which is registered lost or stolen at any time unless the lost or stolen records associated with it are cleared. If we at any time become aware of any issues, you will be required to co-operate with the authorities and we reserve the right to withhold or cancel the payment.And then in an email they wrote:If the loss/stolen records on this phone/device are not cleared before (28 days), we will be required by law to confiscate the item of property and dispose of it accordingly.To me, "destroying" and "disposing" are not terms commonly associated or consistent with "hand over to the police".
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Whatever their conditions say or do not say, you cannot stop them making a report to the police and handing over evidence.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Okay thanks for your help in clarifying my questions. My main issues will be that it will flag on the police system as being handed over to EOD for training purposes, then when they query my employer they won't have any record of a missing phone.My final point for clarification is:Are the police allowed to disclose my information to my employers if they have not reported a crime/ complained about me?
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Yes.
The police are not bound by DPA save for very limited circumstances.
This is the investigation of a criminal offence.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Okay, thank you very much for your time and expertise. I hope this gets resolved quickly!
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
I am sure that when you point out that it was known to the entire workforce that you had found it then it will all disappear into nothing.
Jo C. and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
On the chance you seek closure, the company has agreed not to divulge my details to the police, and will retain the phone unless requested by the police. They apologised for the way a member of their staff handled my dispute and everything has now been lifted off my shoulders. Thank you for your advice. I have rated you 5 stars for your honesty and expertise.