Government urged to send ‘clearer message’ on violence against shop workers

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retail crime
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The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called on the Home Office to send a clearer message that offences against shop workers will not be tolerated.

Responded to a Home Affairs Select Committee consultation on violence and abuse against shop workers, the trade body noted that the Home Office’s response to its Call for Evidence does not go far enough to protect retailers and their colleagues from abuse.

“The problem of violence and abuse against retailers and their colleagues is getting worse, not better,” commented James Lowman, ACS chief executive. “The challenges of the pandemic and the additional flashpoints caused by customers refusing to follow Covid guidelines have contributed to almost half of retailers reporting an increase in incidents during lockdown.”

Key recommendations in the submission include a comprehensive review of the out of court disposals system, new legislation to protect retail workers and a focus on visible community policing and improving local forces’ ability to respond to retail violence.

“We need the Government to send a clear message that violence and abuse will be dealt with properly, and that must come through proper reform of measures like out of court disposals, which are currently not effective in stopping repeat offenders,” Lowman added.

The ACS’ 2020 Crime Report revealed an estimated 50,338 incidents of violence and threats towards convenience store colleagues across the UK, 18,399 robberies and almost 10,000 incidents involving a weapon. In addition, 87% colleagues experienced verbal abuse and 28% experienced physical violence in the previous year.

In its formal response issued in July 2020 to the call for evidence on violence and abuse, launched in April 2019, the government said that no changes to the law are necessary.

The Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill, introduced to the House of Commons by Alex Norris MP on 16 March 2020 under the Ten Minute Rule, is yet to get a date for its second reading, as it is repeatedly pushed back due to a lack of parliamentary time.

The bill seeks to make offences against retail workers aggravated, which would increase the options for more serious sentences for those convicted – one of the issues also raised as part of the Home Affairs’ Select Committee’s consultation process.