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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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I have terminated a contract with a freelancer, have paid in

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Hello, I have terminated a contract with a freelancer, have paid in full for completed works, employee went silent for 2 weeks refusing to return company property. After two weeks he has emailed me saying I owe him some unpaid wages, although in our previous correspondence they have said that all payment is up to date and when I have dismissed them acknowledged that and said they stopped work. He refusing to return company property until I pay him extra money, but there hasn't been any work done hence I'm not willing to pay. Can I call police to return my property?

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

What period is he saying you owe him money for exactly?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Basically he was working on "full-time" basis, so was not charging "per hour" but for a month employment. He has sent me a bill on the 18th of September, and I have terminated on the 19th, which he acknowledged and I have an email response confirming that they stopped working, then I have payed all wages leading up to that date, and now 3 weeks later he is asking for additional 30 hours of pay
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
regardless of that... can they withhold my property illegally?

OK thank you, ***** ***** it with me. I am in court today so will prepare my advice during the day and get back to you at the earliest opportunity. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Thank you.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I have been paying them set wage for moth work for a 6 moth project, last month they had personal problems which has had a huge impact on quality of work, that why i terminated. He has been taking time off to travel and for personal matters which has lead to disastrous consequences for the company, nonetheless I have paid in full for all time leading up to termination.

Thank you for the additional information. I will get back to you at the earliest opportunity. Many thanks

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Last invoice he sent said "I have taken time off but made up for it during late nights so it all evens out" - and I have terminated right after that. He emailed saying "I have stopped all works" on the ay of termination.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
ok, thank you I will probably type up some additional comments in the meantime

No problem at all

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
after termination I have tried contacting him several times and have sent another employee to get the company property, but they refuse to give it back. This Tuesday I have received an email stating that there is outstanding amount, so they have been withholding my things for 3 weeks now without explanation
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
please get back to me today as I can't work without my equipment that he is holding.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
basically it was a 6 month project, I was paying a flat fee half monthly for the works. They have never charged me on "per hour" basis. They were contracted to do several tasks which they have failed to do some, and done the rest poorly, hence the dismissal. I have paid IN FULL. We have no contract, the only terms of service agreement we had (I don't have a signed copy) was that he has drawn up himself, and it states that "if the project is canceled at any stage" works should be payed for on "quantum merit" basis- work that has been completed, there is no "notice period"

Many thanks for your patience. The issue with involving the police is that they are likely to see this as a civil dispute and refuse to get involved. This is not theft in the legal sense, it is likely to be argued as lien over goods for a dispute over payment so it would be a civil matter which would have to be dealt with under civil legal options.

It is not uncommon for parties to withhold property, such as tools, materials, equipment in the event of a dispute over payment and generally such issues are resolved via the civil courts. There is of course nothing stopping you from contacting the police but just be prepared for them to refuse to get involved as that is quite likely.

So in the circumstances if that is the case you will have to consider taking the matter down the civil route, such as pursuing the party for damages or an order for the return of your property.

This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the steps you need to follow to take this further, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, there is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you

Ben Jones and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Ben, thank you for your response,
However- is that not two separate issues? One is a matter of payment and is a civil issue and second is theft and is a criminal matter?
I understand that its not uncommon, however isn't it illegal to take other people's stuff without their consent?

Hi there, as mentioned this is unlikely to be seen as theft. It is not as simple as just taking someone else’s property – just doing that does not always amount to theft. For theft to apply there has to be an intention to permanently deprive someone of their property. In this case this is unlikely to be a permanent deprival – this would be a temporary deprivation until the payment issues are resolved. Also as mentioned it could be exercising the civil right to take lien over the property, i.e. to gold it as security until the other issues are resolved. Hence why it is unlikely the police would see it as a criminal matter.

If you did want to take this further in terms of seeking compensation for the value of the property, whenever a dispute arises over compensation owed by one party to another, the party at fault can be pursued through the civil courts. As legal action should always be seen as a last resort, there are certain actions that should be taken initially to try and resolve this matter informally and without having to involve the courts. It is recommended that the process follows these steps:

1. Reminder letter – if no reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent first to allow the party at fault to voluntarily settle this matter.

2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but these have been ignored, the party at fault must be sent a formal letter asking them to resolve this amicably within a specified period of time. A reasonable period to demand a response by would be 10 days. They should be advised that if they fail to do contact you in order to resolve this matter, formal legal proceedings will be commenced to pursue the compensation due. This letter serves as a ‘final warning’ and gives the other side the opportunity to resolve this matter without the need for legal action.

3. If they fail to pay or at least make contact to try and resolve this, formal legal proceedings can be initiated. A claim can be commenced online by going to Once the claim form is completed it will be sent to the other side and they will have a limited time to defend it. If they are aware legal proceedings have commenced it could also prompt them to reconsider their position and perhaps force them to contact you to try and resolve this.

Whatever correspondence is sent, it is always advisable to keep copies and use recorded delivery so that there is proof of delivery and a paper trail. The court may need to refer to these if it gets that far.