ACS: Home Office Still Not Committing to New Law to Protect Shopworkers

ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) is calling on the Home Office to amend the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to create a new offence of assaulting a shopworker.

Today (9th September) the Home Affairs Select Committee published the Government’s response to its report on Violence and abuse towards retail workers.

In response to the Committee’s recommendation to introduce a new offence for introducing extra protection for shopworkers in law, the Government stated: “A wide range of offences already exist that cover assaults against any worker, including retail workers. Such offences include common assault, actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm, harassment and other public order offences, all of which criminalise threatening or abusive behaviour intended to harass, alarm or distress a person.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We are disappointed the government is not committing to supporting legislation to create a specific offence of assaulting a shopworker. Unions, retailers and shopworkers all told the Home Affairs Committee that this is needed to ensure effective penalties and to send a message about the importance of these essential workers. We are pleased that the government’s response confirms they will consider amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and to look at legislation passed in Scotland that creates this separate offence, but the case has been made and the government should act now.

“Retailers and their colleagues are bearing the brunt of failings throughout the police and criminal justice system: poor response, lack of interest in investigating repeat offenders, and inadequate sentences for those who are convicted. The Committee’s inquiry has raised the profile of these issues, we now need a comprehensive plan, backed by proper resources, to tackle violence against retailers.”

Figures from the 2021 ACS Crime Report show that there were over 40,000 violent attacks against people working in convenience stores and 1.1m incidents of theft over the last year, many of which committed by repeat offenders with a drug or alcohol addiction.

Mr Lowman continued: “We encourage our members to report all crimes to the police but the biggest deterrent to reporting is not getting a response from police forces. We provide a comprehensive package of guidance to our members on reporting and managing crime, including working with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust on work place safety on in the convenience sector.”

ACS Crime Prevention Guidance for 2021 is available here including the Suzy Lamplugh Workplace Safety Charter for the convenience sector.

ACS is currently co-ordinating with the Home Office, Crimestoppers and over 100 leading retailers in the UK on the ShopKind campaign, urging consumers to be respectful of others whilst in stores. Campaign materials for retailers are available to download on the NBCC website here.

The Government’s full response is available here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmselect/cmhaff/669/66902.htm

Violence and Abuse Against Retailers: Timeline

  • March 2019: ACS, Home Office and retail sector launch #AlwaysReportAbuse campaign.
  • April 2019: Call for evidence on violence and abuse is launched, and receives responses from almost 3,500 interested parties, including retailers and colleagues that have been victims of abuse and violence at work.
  • March 2020: Yvette Cooper speakers at Retail Industry Parliament Reception on violence and abuse against shopworkers.
  • March 2020: Ten Minute Rule motion on Assaults on Retail Workers, proposed by Alex Norris MP, is passed and added to the register of Parliamentary business. The Bill is first scheduled to be debated in April 2020, but is subsequently delayed.
  • May 2020: Police and Crime Commissioner elections are delayed due to Coronavirus, currently scheduled to take place in May 2021.
  • July 2020: Government issues formal response to call for evidence on violence and abuse over a year after the consultation closed, stating that no changes to the law are necessary.
  • September 2020: Crime Minister Kit Malthouse writes to all Police and Crime Commissioners, reminding them of the importance of prosecuting shop theft offences under the value of £200 as well as those over £200.
  • December 2020: Home Affairs Select Committee launches new consultation, looking at whether the Government’s own response to its call for evidence was adequate.
  • February 2021: Scottish Parliament passes the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act. The Bill was sponsored by Daniel Johnson MSP and introduced an aggravated offence for attacks on shopworkers
  • March 2021: ACS launches 2021 Crime Report, revealing that 89% of colleagues in stores have been the victim of abuse over the last year, with a total of 1.2m incidents of abuse recorded.
  • April 2021: ACS gives evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, outlining the scale of the problem of violence and abuse against shopworkers.
  • April 2021: ACS, the Home Office, Crimestoppers and over 100 retailers and trade bodies come together to launch the #ShopKind campaign, funded by the Home Office.
  • May 2021: Second reading of Alex Norris’ Bill on Assaults on Retail Workers is once again delayed. A second reading date is yet to be set.
  • May 2021: Police and Crime Commissioner elections take place. ACS sets out a series of recommendations for Police and Crime Commissioners to encourage them to take retail crime more seriously.
  • June 2021: Shadow Policing Minister proposes an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill that would introduce a new offence for abusing a shopworker.
  • June 2021: Government rejects amendment to PCSC Bill, stating that existing legislation is adequate to deal with violence and abuse. Suggests that employers need to do more to increase reporting levels.
  • June 2021: Home Affairs Select Committee, led by Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, publishes report on violence and abuse against retailers, calling for urgent action to address the problem. Recommendations include a new offence for attacking shopworkers, and a more formal response to incidents from police.
  • September 2021: Home Office responds the Home Affairs Select Committee report
This entry was posted by Chloe on Thu, 09/09/2021 - 12:21
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