Retail Crimewatch

The government has confirmed it is considering making “legislative changes” to better protect retailers against crime.

The comments were made in a Lords debate yesterday on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, looking to make it a specific offence to abuse a shopworker.

Baroness Williams of Trafford revealed: “The government are continuing to consider whether changes, including legislative changes, are needed and will reflect carefully on the debate. On the basis of that very firm undertaking that the government are considering as a matter of urgency, how best to balance those many issues.”

In response, Lord Coaker agreed to withdraw the amendment, meaning it was debated but not pushed to a decision, giving the government more time to finalise a decision on how to best approach the issue.

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He explained the conversations had left him “optimistic”. He said: “I am an optimistic person by nature and I thought that there were grounds for optimism in the way in which the minister talked about weighing up the options and looking at the various ways forward, including – and this was as a really important remark that noble Lords may have heard – “legislative change”.

“In the interest of time, I shall leave it there, but we will look forward to the government coming forward with something on report, or us tabling our own amendment.”

When pushing the need for the Bill, Coker referenced the introduction of The Protection of Workers Act 2021 in Scotland, stating “it can be done”.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe called for a “three-pronged approach” to help tackle the rising number of incidents. “The first prong is investment by retailers in safety and prevention,” she said.

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“This has already happened – £1.2 billion according to the BRC – and will continue. The second is stronger legislative backing, which both amendments would provide. The third is close working with the police. If we can create a more serious offence that is appropriate to the harm done, more detail specific to retailer would be collected and the police would do more; respond more often and collaborate better with this vital, if unfashionable, sector. We would be levelling up.”

Concerningly, Lord Paddick referenced a meeting he recently had with a superintendent in London, “who worryingly” admitted “police were being made aware that there were a large number of solvable crimes, where people could be prosecuted, and the police no longer had the resources to pursue those offences”.

Baroness Jolly requested those who added their names to both amendments “sit down together to craft an amendment that would fit with all the points that were made in this short, but really quite informative and well-informed debate”.

The comments come more than a year after the government first refused to make changes to any laws, claiming sufficient ones already exist, following the publication of consultation results looking at violence against shop workers.

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