A man who tackled a shoplifter at a central Auckland supermarket says he was shocked to learn what he had done was illegal.
Todd Scott, the owner of National Business Review, tried to perform a citizen's arrest when he saw someone stealing alcohol from the Lower Albert Street Countdown Metro on Wednesday.
"He was walking my way, making all these aggressive moves, so I just put a hit on him," he said.
"He was a big guy but he had both hands around the alcohol, so I knew if I took him out by his legs it would be hard to get back off the ground."
Scott said he held the shoplifter for about ten minutes, before the supermarket manager who had called police told him he had to let go.
"I had about three or four security guys around me supporting me," he said.
"The store manager whispered into my ear that the police said I had to let him go because I was the one in the wrong."
Scott said the manager was just as confused as he was.
"It took two of us to get him up off the ground, he shook the manager's hand, and he was very genuine with his apology," he said.
"I feel utterly embarrassed, and a bit confused," he said.
"If more people with the ability to do what I did the other day could do so without breaking the law less people would break the law and get away with it."
The Crimes Act states that ordinary citizens are only able to arrest someone "by night", or if the criminal commits an offence "for which the maximum punishment is not less than 3 years' imprisonment".
The maximum penalty for shoplifting is three months.
"If the law states that a person can't make a citizen's arrest, then surely the law needs to change," Scott said.
"Seven minutes after letting the guy out the door while I was still talking to security, another guy walked out the door with about three cases of alcohol."
Scott said a police officer he spoke to after the incident said he could have been charged with assault if the shoplifter had decided to lay charges.