Q&A – 27 May 2024

Finder of lost goods

I recently found a valuable diamond ring on an airplane while travelling for a business trip. I am quite sure the ring was not intentionally left behind and hence have been making reasonable efforts to locate the true owner. This has included paying for airtime in television and radio stations trying to spread news of the find. My friends think that I am doing too much and should just keep the ring. I want to know what the law says about finders of lost goods. Kindly guide me.
HN, Dar es Salaam

A person who finds lost goods and keeps them in her or his custody is subject to the same legal rights and responsibilities as a bailee. In simple terms, bailment is a legal relationship in common law, where the owner transfers physical possession of a property for a period of time while retaining ownership. A bailee is a person who temporarily holds property of another person in her or his custody, whereas a bailor is the owner of property that is temporarily not in their possession. Since the position of the finder of the lost goods is that of a bailee, the law governing bailment applies.

In the case of Tanzania, the Law of Contract Act [Cap. 345 R.E 2019] (the Law of Contracts) provides guidance. Section 120 of the Act states that the finder of goods has no right to sue the owner for compensation for trouble and expense voluntarily incurred by him to preserve the goods and to find out the owner; but he may retain the goods against the owner until he receives such compensation; and, where the owner has offered a specific reward for the return of goods lost, the finder may sue for such reward, and may retain the goods until he receives it.

Moreover, section 121 of the Act further guides that where a thing which is commonly the subject of sale is lost, if the owner cannot with reasonable diligence be found, or if he refuses, upon demand, to pay the lawful charges of the finder, the finder may sell it (a) when the thing is in danger of perishing or of losing the greater part of its value; or (b) when the lawful charges of the finder, in respect of the thing found, amount to two-thirds of its value.

Courts in common law jurisdictions have established the position that the finder of lost goods has a better claim than anyone else except the true owner. Nonetheless, the circumstances in each case matter. You are therefore required to ensure you act within the law and contact your lawyer.

Use of image without consent

I own a lifestyle social media page where I post my travel and vacation experiences. It has come to my knowledge that one of my photographs was used by a tourism company based in Arusha to promote their business. Unfortunately, this was done without my consent and the company has refused to take down the photo on account that the image was obtained in a public domain and hence no privacy rights were interfered. Is this true? What does the law say on the use of personal image without consent?
EM, Arusha

The right to privacy is guaranteed under the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 (the Constitution) amongst other laws. Article 16(1) of the Constitution states that every person is entitled to respect and protection of his person, the privacy of his own person; his family and of his matrimonial life, and respect and protection of his residence and private communications. It is also important to note that international human rights instruments also call for the respect of individual’s right to privacy. This includes the Universal Declaration of Human Right, 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966. Tanzanian Courts have on several occasions held that a personal image deserves protection of the law as it concerns with one’s privacy. The unconsented use of your image is therefore illegal and amounts to interference of your personal privacy. Posting photographs in a public domain does not take away the right to give consent on the use of one’s personal image. Your lawyer can guide you further on this.

Evidence obtained in undercover operations

I am an investigative journalist working for a prominent broadcasting company in Tanzania. Recently, I was involved in a documentary on child trafficking and obtained a lot of information on trafficking rings and shared this with the police for further follow up. The police are now conducting their own undercover investigation using the data we gave them. I was wondering whether evidence obtained during undercover operations is accepted in Court. Please guide me.
GF, Mwanza

In legal terms, acceptance of evidence is technically known as admissibility. The basic requirements of admissibility is that evidence is acceptable in Court where it is relevant, material, and competent, and is not barred by any exclusionary rule. In the case of evidence obtained in undercover operations, section 40A of the Evidence Act, [Cap. 6 R.E 2022] provides that in any criminal proceedings (a) an information retrieved from computer systems, networks or servers; (b) the records obtained through surveillance of means of preservation of information including facsimile machines, electronic transmission and communication facilities; or (c) the audio or video recording of acts or behaviours or conversation of persons charged, shall be admissible in evidence. In that regard, generally speaking evidence obtained in undercover operations is not excluded by law and will be admissible provided such evidence meets the requirements of admissibility. We recommend you speak to your lawyer about this.