Labour has promised to protect UK shopkeepers from assaults by handing out heavier punishments to thugs found guilty of attacking shop staff.

If his party is elected, Shadow Home Office Minister Jack Dromey has vowed Labour would strengthen the law and ensure it is “effectively” enforced by the police.

[pull_quote_right]It’s not right that shop staff are working in fear of being assaulted or threatened[/pull_quote_right]

The MP described the 120,000 assaults committed each year in Britain a ‘national scandal’ and promised to take action, after listening to the experiences of members of the shopworkers’ union Usdaw.

He said: “The police have thus far not taken sufficiently seriously crime against shopworkers and the Government has lamentably failed to protect our nation’s shopworkers, including cutting 15,000 police officers. We have pressed the Government to act. If they don’t we will.”

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter welcomed the commitment given by Dromey. He said: “It’s not right that shop staff are working in fear of being assaulted or threatened. More action needs to be taken to protect our independent news and convenience stores from harm.”

Lanarkshire retailer Kulvinder Atwal says stronger punishments for assaults could not come too soon. He said: “We’re just coming in to do our jobs and it’s not right that we should risk injury, aggression or worse. The only deterrent that exists is stiffer penalties or prison sentences. The current Government could do a lot more to help solve the problem, which people think has disappeared since CCTV.”

Stuart Mills, who owns Anne’s Store with his wife in Ealing, London, was dismayed in 2011 when a thief was caught red handed in his shop but only got the minimum sentence, despite having 32 other convictions to his name. He said: “Courts are well-briefed on the idea that assault and burglary are minor crimes and there are already too many people in over-crowed prisons, so they want to avoid adding to the problem. But out on the street, it’s just making things worse.”