LAW-MAKERS have turned down a bill to protect shop workers despite fresh figures showing assaults against retail staff quadrupled last year.
Retail robberies are also up by 48%, while theft from shops has hit its highest level in almost a decade, according to the British Retail Consortium’s 2013 crime survey.
The House of Lords this month voted not to bring in the offence of ‘assaulting a worker serving the public’, which was designed to stigmatise and increase prison sentences for those who attack shop staff.
Priti Patel MP, chair of the Parliamentary Small Shops Group, branded the rise in attacks on retailers “shocking” and called for crimes against shopworkers to be taken seriously and punished accordingly.
She told Retail Express: “Retail crime is a serious problem for many businesses and it is shocking to
see the numbers of incidents of abuse and assaults against shop workers increase.
“By punishing offenders with long prison sentences, the criminal justice system will send a strong signal that will deter criminals from targeting shops.”
The BRC report highlights that violence against retail staff often happens when workers challenge customers over age-restricted products and shop theft. The proposed amendment to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill had been designed in order to protect retail staff, just as assaulting a police officer is a particularly grave offence.
Shop workers union Usdaw blasted the House of Lords’ decision to throw out the amendment.
Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “There is a real need to address the scourge of violence against workers and I am concerned that the attackers are getting away with relatively lenient sentences.
“Parliament expects workers to enforce and police the laws they pass, but they have failed to provide the additional protection needed to help keep those workers safe.”
NFRN national president Colin Fletcher told Retail Express that Parliament is simply not doing enough to support shop workers, particularly in the independent news and convenience sector.
He said: “While shop workers are expected to play an important role in ensuring that they sell age-
restricted products responsibly, at the moment they are being given little support in return.”