ACS: Government Must Go Further to Clamp Down on Violence and Abuse Against Shopworkers

ACS has responded to a Home Affairs Select Committee consultation on violence and abuse against shopworkers, calling on the Home Office to send a clearer message that offences will not be tolerated.

In its’ submission, ACS states that the Home Office’s response to its Call for Evidence does not go far enough to protect retailers and their colleagues from abuse. Key recommendations in the submission include:

  • A comprehensive review of the out of court disposals system to tackle the root causes of offending instead of issuing ineffective fines to repeat offenders
  • New legislation is needed to protect retail workers and send a clear message that violence against people working in stores will not be tolerated
  • The Home Office should focus on visible community policing and improving local forces’ ability to respond to retail violence

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The problem of violence and abuse against retailers and their colleagues is getting worse, not better. The challenges of the pandemic and the additional flashpoints caused by customers refusing to follow Covid guidelines have contributed to almost half of retailers reporting an increase in incidents during lockdown. We need the Government to send a clear message that violence and abuse will be dealt with properly, and that must come through proper reform of measures like out of court disposals, which are currently not effective in stopping repeat offenders.”

The ACS’ 2020 Crime Report revealed an estimated 50,338 incidents of violence and threats towards convenience store colleagues across the UK, 18,399 robberies and almost 10,000 incidents involving a weapon. In addition, 87% colleagues experienced verbal abuse and 28% experienced physical violence in the previous year, just for doing their job.

Timeline of Government Action on Violence and Abuse

  • 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: 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.

Today (15th January)  Alex Norris MP’s Assaults on Retail Workers Bill is scheduled to be debated in Parliament, although it is likely that the Bill will once again be pushed back due to a lack of parliamentary time. The Bill seeks to make offences against retail workers aggravated, which would increase the options for more serious sentences for those convicted – one of the issues also raised as part of the Home Affairs’ Select Committee’s consultation process.

The full submission is available here.

This entry was posted by Chloe on Fri, 15/01/2021 - 16:25