Retail trade union Usdaw has raised questions on the recent announcement on sentencing policy by the Justice Secretary, asking if the move will add to the impression that theft from shops has effectively been decriminalised.
The government on Monday (16) announced that fewer “low-level offenders” will be sent to prison, under new reforms. They will legislate for a presumption that custodial sentences of less than 12 months in prison will be suspended and offenders will be punished in the community instead.
Reacting to the announcement, Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary- pointed out that there is an epidemic of shoplifting sweeping through retail and all too often that triggers violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers.
“While we accept that jailtime isn’t always the best way to rehabilitate criminals, there does need to be justice for victims and community punishment must be effective in preventing reoffending.
“Much of our concerns around growing retail crime is about underfunding of the police and getting the offenders to court in the first place. There are too few officers patrolling the streets and our members tell me they very rarely see the police in their stores. The policy of issuing fixed penalty notices for thefts under £200 leads to too few of these crimes being investigated and prosecuted.
“There has been a 24 per cent increase in police recorded shoplifting and much of that increase is driven by criminal gangs with links to the illegal drugs trade. Our members would be distressed if violent shoplifters are not appropriately punished for the terror they reign in stores. We are concerned that today’s announcement could add to the impression that shoplifting has effectively been decriminalised.
“Usdaw and retail employers have jointly called for the Scottish protection of workers law to be extended to the rest of the UK. A similar law was proposed in the House of Commons and rejected by the Government. It is time for them to reverse their opposition, to make it clear that assaulting a shopworker is absolutely unacceptable.”