Government Again Fails to Act on Tougher Sentences for Shopworkers

ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has reacted with disappointment at the Government’s failure to take action to introduce tougher sentences for shopworkers. 

In a Lords debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, amendments were withdrawn that would have made attacking someone working in retail a more serious offence. 

Speaking during the debate, Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: “Obviously, a wide range of offences already exist covering assaults on any worker, including retail workers, and they include offences such as common assaults.”

The Minister also mentioned the Government’s previous commitment to address this issue in the Lords. During a previous debate in the Commons on this Bill, then Crime Minister Victoria Atkins said: “I make it clear that we want to assure my honourable friend and Members of all parties that we are not complacent about the matter and that we are actively considering tabling an amendment, if appropriate, in the Lords." 

In the debate, Baroness Williams said: “In the Commons, Minister Atkins committed to actively consider this issue and that remains the Government’s position, but as part of that process of consideration I very much wanted to hear and then reflect on the debate today.”

In briefings to Peers, ACS has outlined the scale and impact of violence and abuse against shopworkers, with over 40,000 shopworkers experiencing violence and 89% experiencing verbal abuse over the past year. ACS and others have long called on the government to introduce an amendment that would enforce tougher penalties for attacks on individuals serving the public.

Figures from the 2021 ACS Crime Report also show that there were over 1.1m incidents of theft over the last year, many of which committed by repeat offenders with a drug or alcohol addiction. The report also shows that there have been over 1.2m incidents of abuse over the last year, which often go unreported.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Government has once again failed to take urgent action to protect colleagues working in our sector. These amendments would’ve introduced a new specific offence for attacks on shopworkers in line with recently passed legislation in Scotland and provided our colleagues with the additional protection that they so desperately need. Violent and abusive incidents can be traumatic for the individuals, often with significant emotional and physical implications and shopworkers should be provided with the same level of protection across the UK.

“Violence and abuse towards staff is a top concern for retailers and we will continue to call for the Government to introduce tougher penalties for attacks on shopworkers to send the clear message that these incident are unacceptable and should not be tolerated.”

ACS has co-ordinated with over 100 retailers and trade bodies the Home Office backed ShopKind campaign, urging customers to be respectful of colleagues in stores. Campaign materials for retailers are available to download on the NBCC website here.

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
  • November 2021: Amendments to the PCSC Bill related to attacks against shopworkers were debated and withdrawn.
This entry was posted by Chris on Thu, 18/11/2021 - 14:55