The retail industry has welcomed proposed changes put forward by the government that would see tougher sentencing for those that assault shopworkers.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse confirmed the government has tabled an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which states that courts must treat assaults committed “against a person providing a public service, performing a public duty or providing services to the public” as an aggravated offence.
The Home Office notified the National Retail Crime Steering Group of the proposed amendment, which would result in tougher sentencing for offenders.
The government had previously indicated it would consider an amendment to the Bill in Lords in order to address the issue of tougher sentencing.
In addition, the ACS, USDAW, the Co-operative and others in the industry have reportedly called on the government “repeatedly” to act and “send a clear message that it takes crimes against shopworkers seriously”.
Helen Dickinson OBE, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, welcomed the news and said: “We welcome the Government’s proposed amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which means that people who commit violent offences against retail workers can receive tougher sentences for their crimes.
“By tabling this amendment, government has signalled that it understands the seriousness of the issue facing retail workers, 455 of whom are abused or attacked every day at work.”
She added: “If the police prosecute all reported violent incidents as aggravated offences and the courts sentence those convicted accordingly, retail workers will feel better protected, would-be offenders may be deterred, and we will begin to see the true scale of the problem faced by our hardworking colleagues.”
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We strongly welcome the tabling of this amendment, which the retail sector has been calling for over a number of years. It’s essential that the penalties for attacking a shopworker act as an effective deterrent.
“Introducing tougher sentences for those who attack people providing a service to the public, including shopworkers, marks a significant step forward, but it does not solve the problem by itself.”
He added: “We need to ensure that abuse is not seen as part of the job and that all incidents are reported, and in response, Police and Crime Commissioners must prioritise crimes committed against retailers and their colleagues. We must also put the right interventions in place to stop those with substance and alcohol dependencies from reoffending.”
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw general secretary said: “After years of campaigning we are pleased to have secured movement from the Government and that they have finally accepted the need to legislate to protect shopworkers from violence at work. We are studying the amendment to the Policing Bill and are keen to engage with the Government and politicians from all parties so that our members can be absolutely clear that the provisions in the Bill will deliver the protections they deserve.
“Usdaw members working in retail have for too long been in the firing line of appalling behaviour from a significant minority of customers. Nine in ten shopworkers have faced abuse in the last year, with far too many also suffering threats and violence. A protection of workers law is long overdue and this could be a step in the right direction.”
Usdaw added that it is currently looking at the wording of the amendment and is keen to work with the Government and Members of the House of Lords to ensure that the draft provisions deliver the protections retail workers deserve”.