The slow-moving and cash-strapped court system is letting retailers down and allowing offenders to escape punishment.

Retail Express has uncovered shocking statistics in the National Audit Office’s report on the criminal justice system in England and Wales. They show 66% of trials don’t go ahead because the courts aren’t ready to proceed. And 45% of victims are unwilling to go to court because they lack faith in the system.

A barrister with knowledge of the situation told Retail Express: “For retailers who are victims of crime, and who are required to give evidence at court, this regrettably increases not only the time spent waiting for the trial to come around, but the likelihood that, even when you attend court, the trial might not go ahead.

“Increasingly, particularly in the magistrates’ courts where most allegations of shoplifting are tried, there is an increase in cases being thrown out by magistrates due to the prosecution not being ready to proceed, for example failing to get important evidence.”

According to the latest criminal justice statistics, shoplifting accounted for more than half of all proceedings for theft offences.

Increasingly, particularly in the magistrates’ courts where most allegations of shoplifting are tried, there is an increase in cases being thrown out by magistrates due to the prosecution not being ready to proceed

“For perceived ‘lesser offences’, such as shoplifting, experience teaches me that there are simply not the resources to always devote the time and effort required,” the barrister added.

The ACS Crime Report, launched last month, revealed that shop theft alone accounts for an annual cost of more than £43m.

Retailers told Retail Express that they had been put off reporting shop crime because of a poor response from the police and justice system.

Bal Dhillon of Westcombe Park Food & Wine in south-east London, said: “You just think ‘what’s the point?’ Nothing’s going to happen if you do report it. It’s just one of those things that happens.”

Serge Notay, owner of Nisa Local in Batley, West Yorkshire, said one police officer told him it was a waste of their time. But he continues to report incidents.

“They told me it wasn’t worth the paperwork and told me to just write it off,” he said. “We’re sitting ducks here in retail, but it’s not going to put me off reporting it.