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    Shoplifters to benefit most under government’s new move to end short jail terms

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    Shoplifters and retail thieves will benefit most from the government’s plans to impose a moratorium on jail sentences of less than 12 months in England and Wales, suggests recent figures which lists shoplifters, offenders convicted of battery, and those who have assaulted emergency workers among the top three groups who will avoid prison under the government’s new measure.

    Shoplifters account for more than one in eight offenders who will not face jail and who will instead receive a suspended sentence, the data shows.

    Ministry of Justice data revealed by the justice minister, Edward Argar, in response to a parliamentary question show that shoplifters received the most sentences that in future would be suspended. Last year 5,289 shoplifting sentences of less than a year were handed out, up from 3,848 in 2021, The Guardian stated in a report.

    Common assault and battery accounts for the second most common offence, followed by assault, or assault by beating of an emergency worker, in third.

    The top 10 offences have accounted for almost 58 per cent of all sentences of up to 12 months handed out in the past two years. The data comes at a time of heightened concern about organised shoplifting.

    Meanwhile, the policing minister Chris Philp vowed to crack down on the gangs behind shoplifting.

    “I want a new zero-tolerance approach to tackling shoplifting. It is a blight on our high streets and communities and puts the livelihoods of traders at risk. I am determined to drive forward change. While it is encouraging to see a 29 per cent increase in charges for shoplifting in the past year, the rise in offending is unacceptable.”

    On the other hand, Labour has vowed to change the law to stop shoplifters who steal goods worth less than £200 avoiding jail.

    The shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, said, “Shop thieves are becoming increasingly bold and threatening, putting workers who try to stop them at serious risk of harm, and shopkeepers need to know they will get results if they report these incidents.

    “If not, we are going to get a vicious circle where the thieves know they can get away with whatever they like, their raids will become ever more frequent and violent, and shop staff will feel increasingly helpless to do anything about it.”

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