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    Shoplifters could be spared jail under new policy

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    Thousands of shoplifters are set to be spared jail under the government’s new policy of avoiding short prison sentences, state recent reports.

    Official figures revealed by ministers show shop thieves account for one in eight offenders who will receive a suspended sentence as part of the new rules for ending prison terms of less than 12 months to free up capacity in jails.

    Former head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Sir Max Hill said the Government should consider dealing with acquisitive crime such as shoplifting outside the court system through schemes designed to tackle the causes of the criminality.

    “We should be looking again at whether it is necessary to take every case into court. I don’t mean offences of violence. I certainly don’t mean sexual crimes but some acquisitive crimes. Shoplifting, for example,” the former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) told a BBC Today debate on criminal justice, The Telegraph reported.

    He cited Durham police’s Checkpoint scheme, saying it slashed reoffending rates by burglars, shoplifters and thieves by sparing them prosecution in return for them agreeing to undergo rehabilitation for problems such as mental ill health and drug or drink abuse.

    “By taking cases out of court, they have reduced recidivism even for frequent shoplifters. That’s one point that we should look at again,” said Sir Max, who stepped down as DPP in October last year.

    Under the scheme, offenders could walk away without a criminal conviction if they completed a four-month contract with police. If they did not, they were prosecuted in the traditional way. Of the first 2,6609 offenders involved in the trial, only 166 (six per cent) reoffended.

    The report comes a day after British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported record-level shocking figures of abuse and violence towards retail staff with number of incidents rose to 1,300 per day in 2022-23 from almost 870 per day the year before.

    This rise comes despite retailers investing heavily in crime prevention, spending £1.2bn on measures such as CCTV, increased security personnel, and body worn cameras, up from £722m the previous year. The cost of theft to retailers went up to £1.8bn from £953m the previous year, meaning the total cost of crime to retailers stood at £3.3bn – double the previous year.

    Incidents, which include racial abuse, sexual harassment, physical assault, and threats with weapons, are now on a par with the levels seen during the pandemic, when staff bore the brunt of some people’s frustration with Covid safety measures.

    Commenting on the figures, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of BRC stated that criminals are being given a free pass to steal goods and to abuse and assault retail colleagues.

    “No one should have to go to work fearing for their safety. The Protection of Workers Act in Scotland already provides additional protection to retail workers, so why should our hardworking colleagues south of the border be offered less protection? It is vital that government takes action – introducing a new standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker.”

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