Screengrab shows Birmingham shopkeeper Selliah Vasanathan using a broom handle to fight off three robbers armed with hunting knives, November 2018. (File Photo)

Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime at the Home Office, plans to issue a call for evidence to provide further protections for shop workers from violence and abuse.

Atkins discussed the proposal during the meeting of the National Retail Crime Steering Group yesterday (12 February).

The meeting of the group, which includes members such as the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), follows a ministerial roundtable meeting on retail crime on 11 December.

Atkins has announced a number of commitments to address the issue of violent crime against shop workers after the roundtable. This included refreshing the work of the National Retail Crime Steering Group on violent crime.

The Group brings government, police and industry together to improve the response to crimes affecting the sector, including assaults and theft.

The call for evidence and funding for the sector to run targeted communications activity form part of the measures announced by Atkins.

The call for evidence is intended to help strengthen the evidence base and look at all options for addressing these crimes. The proposals include how to protect retail workers from abuse and violence that often occur from age-restricted sales, such as cigarettes and alcohol.

“No-one should be subject to violence and abuse in their workplace and I have every sympathy for retail staff who have been the victims of these appalling acts just for doing their jobs. It is important to tackle this issue,” said Atkins.

The Home Office’s Commercial Victimisation Survey estimated that in 2017, workers from the wholesale and retail sector were victim to around 510,000 incidents of assaults and threats, more than twice the number recorded in 2016 (203,000 incidents).

James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS, said: “The safety of people working in local shops is our number one priority and we are determined that our work with the Home Office delivers lasting change and safer local shops.

“This includes securing a strong response from the police and criminal justice system to ensure offenders are brought to justice, and to send a clear message that violence against shop workers is not acceptable.”

The funding to the tune of £50,000 will be used to raise awareness of the wide ranging offences that may be used to address this issue.