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    Retail bosses react over shop worker assault law change

    Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak watches CCTV footage of brazen shop lifters at a police station in Horsham, West Sussex during a visit on April 10, 2024 focused on anti-harassment and shop lifting protocols. (Photo by Richard Pohle / POOL / AFP) (Photo by RICHARD POHLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

    Retail bosses have welcomed prime minister Rishi Sunak’s plans of change in the law to create a separate offence for assaulting a shopkeeper, calling the move as “tremendous triumph” for retail workers.

    Sunak today (10) announced plans for tougher punishments for serial or abusive shoplifters in England and Wales, including being forced to wear a tag to ensure they do not revisit the scene of their crime, under a new standalone criminal offence of assaulting a retail worker.

    The new law, under which perpetrators could be sent to prison for up to six months and receive unlimited fines, will be introduced via an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill that is working its way through parliament. The change could happen as early as this summer.

    The government is also investing more than £55 million in expanding facial recognition systems – including vans that will scan crowded high streets – as part of a renewed crackdown on shoplifting.

    Reacting to the plans, Peter Batt, managing director of Nisa, said, “We welcome the change in the law to create a separate offence for assaulting a shopkeeper.  Nisa works with thousands of independent retailers, and we have long highlighted the growing number of assaults in retail, especially on independents, often working alone, late at night to serve their communities. 

    Retail bosses react over shop worker assault law change
    Peter Batt

    “We will continue to monitor crime against independent retailers to help our retailers, and support the law enforcement agencies that ensure often vital retail services can safely offered to communities. Today’s announcement that the Government will legislate to create that standalone offence in England and Wales is a tremendous triumph for the Co-op and Nisa.”

    Noel Robinson, joint managing director of Parfetts, said, “We agree with the government that enough is enough and welcome the move to make assaulting retail workers a standalone criminal offence. Our retailers work hard to serve their communities and deserve to be safe while they do it. We’re calling for the government to fast-track this legislation.”

    The British Retail Consortium (BRC), along with retailers, other trade associations and unions, have been campaigning for a standalone offence for a retail worker, to create transparency about the scale of the issue and to help police to allocate resources to deal with it.

    Responding to the announcement, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the BRC, said, “After relentless campaigning for a specific offence for assaulting retail workers, the voices of the three million people working in retail have finally been heard.

    “The impact of retail violence has steadily worsened, with people facing racial abuse, sexual harassment, threatening behaviour, physical assault and threats with weapons, often linked to organised crime. The BRC 2024 Annual Crime Survey showed record levels of violence and abuse, with incidents soaring to over 1,300 per day last year, compared to 870 the year before.

    Retail bosses react over shop worker assault law change
    Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium

    “Victims are ordinary hardworking people – teenagers taking on their first job, carers looking for part-time work, parents working around childcare.

    “This announcement sends a clear message that this abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. It will improve the police response, which has historically been poor, as police will now have the necessary data to understand the scale of the problem and allocate sufficient resource to address this issue.

    “Retailers are playing their part, spending over £1bn last year on crime prevention measures. Government has taken action, and it is vital that the police use this new legislation to step up their response to incidents. Together, we must stamp out this scourge in crime that has been sweeping the nation and ensure retail workers are given the vital protections they deserve.”

    Retail trade union Usdaw, that has long campaigned for action on a growing epidemic of retail crime, has said they will study the detail of government proposals on retail crime and shopworker assault.

    Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary said, “This long overdue U-turn is the culmination of many years of sustained campaigning by Usdaw and others. Our members have had to wait too long for their voices to be heard and common sense to prevail. We will have to see the detail of what they are proposing, and it must be at least what we won in Scotland three years ago. It also cannot fall short of Labour’s commitments to 13,000 more uniformed officers, patrols on high streets, banning repeat offenders and ending the perverse £200 threshold for prosecuting shoplifters.
     
    “The dither and delay of this Government, on this issue, over many years, has led to thousands of shopworkers needlessly suffering physical and mental injury. I hope that whatever the Government is proposing will be substantial and effective in giving shopworkers, key workers in every community, the respect that they have long deserved and regrettably too often do not receive.”

    Read here for further details.

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