Government publishes retail crime consultation results
Evidence of violence towards shop staff was collected over a 12-week period with an estimated 3,500 individuals and organisations taking part
The government has refused to make changes to any laws that would help deter those who commit retail crime, according to its consultation results published today.
The news comes eight months after the Home Office initially promised independent retailers that it would publish the findings.
The 12-week call for evidence on violence and abuse toward shop staff opened on 5 April, was backed by MP Victoria Atkins and received 800 responses, with an estimated 3,500 individuals, businesses and other organisations, including charities and trade bodies, taking part.
Despite minister for crime and policing Kit Malthouse pledging to write to police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and chief constables to highlight the seriousness of the issue, and ask them to work closely with local businesses, he felt laws did not need to change to effectively reduce crime, but instead “urgent action” was required.
Some respondents, for example, explained the law should be changed to create a separate new offence for assaulting a shop worker in particular. Those in favour said it would deter potential offenders and ensure an effective criminal justice response to crimes.
However, the government stated that although they recognise the motivations behind the suggestions, it “does not consider that the case is yet made out for a change in the law”.
In addition, respondents also reported they had lost faith in the way crimes were dealt with, whether by the police or their employer. Due to an inadequate response, individuals said they were not reporting crime.
Again, the government said in order to improve this issue it is “one that required more urgent action that it does a change in the law”.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said he was disappointed with the lack of change announced: “Warm words and working groups are not enough; we need tougher penalties for attacks on shopworkers and more police resource to stamp out violence.
“The government is rightly approaching PCCs and chief constables to encourage better handling of incidents affecting shopworkers, but this must be followed to ensure proper enforcement.”
However, the convenience industry has welcomed the government’s commitment to act on shared concerns about the £200 “low value theft” threshold.
Respondents explained how a change in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 had created the impression among offenders that shoplifting, where the value of goods stolen is less than £200, would not be dealt with by the police.
The results confirmed that offences involving the theft of goods worth up to £200 can, and should, still be pursued as a criminal offence by the police.
NFRN national president Stuart Reddish responded: “I am very pleased that the Federation’s campaign to highlight the weaknesses of having a £200 threshold for shop theft has been recognised by the government, who are now writing to PCCs and Chief Constables setting out that the theft of goods valued up to £200 from a shop should be prosecuted as a criminal offence and therefore should not constrain the ability of the police to arrest or prosecute someone in the way they feel is most appropriate.”
Elsewhere, the government recognised that prolific offenders usually have complex needs which are linked to their offending behaviour.
As a result, it announced that it would review community sentencing to propose penalties that offer an appropriate level of punishment, to tackle the underlying drivers of offending and addressing issues such as mental health, drug or alcohol addictions.
Malthouse also said he would remind all chief constables in his letters that officers need to provide victims the chance to use either to both of their impact statements.
They hope this will ensure criminal justice agencies use the information to make a sound judgement on what action should be taken against an offender, as well as make decisions on the support and services that victims may need.
Lowman said: “We welcome the focus on reviewing community sentences and urge the government deal with repeat shop thieves, especially through interventions to rehabilitate those with alcohol of drug dependency issues that trigger theft, violence and abuse of shopworkers.”
The full list of Home Office actions includes:
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