New sentencing guidelines for shoplifting, which will take into account the harm it does to both businesses and retail staff, have been welcomed.

The new guidelines for the Theft Act 1968 see courts being told to not just assess the financial loss to businesses and other victims, but to take into account other factors too. These include the emotional distress caused to victims, damage to property and the effect on their businesses.

For this to work, the police have to take a strong interest in prosecuting shop thieves and the courts have to be willing to take on these cases

– James Lowman, ACS

The guidelines could see tougher sentences for shoplifters and other store raiders.

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said: “Time and again we have detailed the devastating impact that retail crime can have on shop owners, family members and their staff.

“We are pleased that our concerns have been noted by the Sentencing Council and that the new guidelines, that will take effect from February next year, will bring a clear focus on the impact of theft on victims beyond financial loss.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman welcomed the new document, but said: “For this to work, the police have to take a strong interest in prosecuting shop thieves and the courts have to be willing to take on these cases. Far too often shop theft is ignored or not taken seriously and this cannot continue.”

He added that he was disappointed it failed to take into account the difference between repeat and first-time offenders, with tougher penalties for the former.