Make retail violence a specific offence, MPs urge

MPs have said the government should “urgently” consider making retail violence a statutory offence, days after it rejected an amendment on the issue.

A report by the Home Affairs Committee argues that shop workers should have “extra protection from the law”, with the number of attacks spiking over the Covid-19 pandemic.

One survey from 2020 showed almost ten per cent staff had been assaulted at work.

“Other public workers have rightly been afforded extra protection by the law in recognition of the public service they provide and the increased risks they face,” noted committee chair Yvette Cooper.

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“A standalone offence for assault on emergency workers has produced promising early results in increasing prosecutions.”

“Violence and abuse towards shop workers must be treated with the same seriousness and those workers must be afforded similar protection in law.”

The committee also recommended the police take a “much stronger” stance on retail crime, after hearing evidence that assaults had been routinely ignored.

Last week, the government rejected an amendment by shadow policing minister Sarah Jones to create a specific offence for assaulting shop staff.

“It is frustrating to hear the Government yet again claim that existing offences and Sentencing Council guidelines are enough when they clearly are not,” Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said.

“Usdaw is looking for a simple stand-alone offence that is easily understood, not just by the legal profession, but by the criminals who are assaulting, threatening and terrifying shopworkers. 

“A separate offence for assaulting a retail worker would encourage prosecutions and provide the deterrent effect that our members are desperately looking for.”

“We are disappointed that the Government has once again failed to take decisive action to tackle the torrent of violence and abuse faced by shop workers,” Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said.

“It’s clear that the existing legislation does not go far enough to deter offenders.”

An ACS report found there were 40,000 attacks on convenience store staff over the past year.

Assaulting a retail worker is already a specific offence in Scotland, where the legislation was passed by 90 per cent of MSPs in January.

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