Crime Minister Kit Malthouse has committed to a review of the £200 threshold for the police prosecuting shoplifting offences after the General Election.
Malthouse was responding to a debate on the final working day of the current parliament (5 November) on retail crime prevention.
“I do not think there is any problem with us reviewing that data internally and deciding whether the policy is working, and then promulgating some kind of best practice,” he said.
Moving the motion, David Hanson, Labour MP for Delyn, has asked the government to respond to the call for evidence on violence and abuse toward shop workers.
“The previous Minister (Victoria Atkins) promised to respond to that evidence in the course of November. It is now November, so I wanted to put that on the record and get some feedback from the current Minister as to where we are with that action,” he said.
Malthouse said an initial analysis of the evidence submitted has been completed by the Home Office, though the government has not yet published its response.
“We want to ensure that the detailed responses received are subject to a thorough and accurate analysis,” he said.
The Home Office’s full response was expected to be published in Autumn, however due to the General Election this is likely to be pushed back into the new year.
Challenging individuals committing shop theft was the most common reason for violence and abuse according to the initial analysis, the minister revealed.
The responses also flag the lack of a suitable response from the police and lack of support from retail organisations and management, particularly when dealing with verbally abusive customers.
“A significant number of respondents stated that they felt that incidents were becoming more violent and that they had experienced threats from individuals with knives, needles or other sharp objects,” he added.
On the question of a specific offence to deal with attacks on shop workers, the minister said he is “not wholly convinced that we are without the tools that we need to deal with the issue.”
“Powers are already available to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to deal with that type of offending and to provide protection to retail staff,” he added.
Responding to the debate, James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, welcomed the commitment to a “long and overdue” review of the £200 threshold, but insisted that the government needs to introduce further measures to protect shop workers.
“Retailers have become extremely frustrated with the lack of police response to incidents, which subsequently ends up with retailers not reporting crimes because they don’t believe anything will be done. The government needs to send a clear message that theft is unacceptable and will be dealt with by the police and wider justice system,” he said.