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    Assaulting shopworkers to be made standalone offence

    Photo: iStock

    Assaulting a shop worker will be made a separate criminal offence in England and Wales as part of a government response to a wave of retail.

    The measures announced today (10) by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak include assaulting a retail worker to be made a standalone criminal offence, serial offenders to be required to be wear electronic tags to monitor their activities along with a pilot of new community sentencing measures to tackle prolific shop theft offenders.

    An investment of £55m over the next four years in facial recognition technology to help identify and catch offenders has also been announced.

    Ministers had previously ruled out legislating to create a new offence, saying in response to a parliamentary petition in October they did not think it was “required or will be most effective”.

    Rishi Sunak, however, announced today (10) that his government would be amending its Criminal Justice Bill to bring in the new offence.

    Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, “I am sending a message to those criminals – whether they are serious organised criminal gangs, repeat offenders or opportunistic thieves – who think they can get away with stealing from these local businesses or abusing shopworkers, enough is enough.

    “Our local shops are the lifeblood of our communities, and they must be free to trade without the threat of crime or abuse.”

    Figures from the 2024 ACS Crime Report show that retailers have recorded over 600 incidents of theft an hour over the last year, along with around 76,000 incidents of violence in local shops.

    Retailers are doing what they can to fight back by investing in crime prevention and detection measures, with £339m spent over the last year in areas like CCTV, security staff, intruder alarms and internal communication systems. Taken together, the cost of crime and the cost of investing in fighting crime results in a 10p ‘crime tax’ on every transaction that takes place in every store across the UK.

    Home Secretary James Cleverly said, “There is quite simply no excuse for threatening behaviour or stealing – which can run other people’s livelihoods into the ground, while being traumatic for workers. To turn a blind eye to retail crime shakes the foundations of law and order which protect our society and that is unacceptable. We are enhancing our plan and doubling down on the zero-tolerance approach needed to fight back. 

    “The number of offenders being charged for these crimes is increasing and while I want to see more people face consequences for their actions, our plan is designed to help put a stop to these crimes happening in the first place.” 

    Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed the announcement of a series of measures aimed at supporting retailers and their colleagues in the battle against violent crime and repeat offending.

    ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We strongly welcome this package of measures which sends a clear message to local shops that retail crime will be taken seriously by the police and the wider justice system. Our members face theft, violence and abuse on a daily basis, with over five million incidents of theft recorded over the last year alone along with over 76,000 incidents of violence. Nobody should have to come to work and face what retailers and their colleagues have faced over the last year.

    “The creation of a standalone offence for assaulting a shopworker is an important step forward, but it must be backed by a joined-up approach from local forces, Police and Crime Commissioners and central Government to ensure that when a crime is reported by a retailer, it is followed up properly and those responsible are taken out of the cycle of reoffending.”

    The move to create a separate offence follows a long-running campaign from major retailers and Conservative backbencher Matt Vickers amid rising violence against retail workers.

    Over the past six months, more than 47,000 people have signed a petition calling for the creation of a separate offence of assaulting a retail worker.

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