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    NI retailers body demands to be included in new shopworker assault law

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    A leading Northern Ireland retailers body is backing the calls to extend legal protection for shop workers from assault in Northern Ireland as well.

    Under tough new action to crack down on retail crime announced on April 10, assaulting a retail worker in England and Wales will be made a standalone criminal offence.

    The plan however does not include Northern Ireland. Scotland has already introduced its Protection of Shop Workers Act in 2021.

    Under new laws, perpetrators could be sent to prison for up to six months, receive an unlimited fine and be banned from going back to the shop where they committed their crimes, with Criminal Behaviour Orders barring them visiting specific premises. 

    Calling on for protection for Northern Ireland shop workers as well, Neil Johnston, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, has called on the Justice Minister, Naomi Long MLA, to act decisively to ensure shop workers in Northern Ireland too get the same legal protection from assault as their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales.

    Johnston said, “We very much welcome the announcement that Westminster is to legislate to introduce a specific standalone offence for a crime of violence against a shopworker. The legislation announced however only covers England and Wales. Scotland has already legislated so there is a real danger that retail workers in Northern Ireland get left behind.

    “We hope that the Minister will rapidly announce that she will introduce similar legislation as a matter of urgency or consider asking for Northern Ireland to be incorporated into the Westminster measure by means of a Legislative Consent Motion.

    “NIRC’s priority is that workers get better legal protections, and that crime is tackled head on. The 2024 BRC Retail Crime Survey showed a staggering increase in violence and abuse across the UK, despite record spending by retailers’ on crime prevention. Incidents of violence and abuse stood at over 1,300 incidents a day in 2022-23, up from 867 the previous year. This includes 113 violent incidents a day.

    “While we continue to work closely with the PSNI, and greatly appreciate the work they do, more must be done to give better legal protection to the skilled and passionate colleagues who help make retail such a vibrant place to work.

    Johnston added that customer theft, across the UK, has doubled to 16.7 million incidents a year, up from 8 million – at a highest ever cost of £1.8 billion, the first time it has risen above the £1 billion mark. Shoplifting is often a trigger for abuse or violence. Taken together with crime prevention, the cost of retail crime now stands at £3.3 billion. With tight margins across the industry, this is money that is not available to invest in lower prices or make improvements to stores. In the end everyone suffers the cost of crime.

    NIRC will strongly back any measure the Executive or the Assembly promote to make the protection of retail workers a greater priority, Johnston added.

     

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