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Finally, a historic victory: New law shields Shop Workers from assault

In a historic and much-celebrated move, the UK government has announced the introduction of a groundbreaking law, making the assault of shop workers a specific criminal… View Article


Finally, a historic victory: New law shields Shop Workers from assault

In a historic and much-celebrated move, the UK government has announced the introduction of a groundbreaking law, making the assault of shop workers a specific criminal offence.

This monumental change comes as a response to a disturbing 50% increase in violent and abusive incidents against retail staff during the 2022-23 period, highlighting the urgent need for enhanced protection measures. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak emphasised that retail establishments must operate free from the shadow of crime and abuse, marking a significant policy turnaround from the government’s earlier stance.

Enough is enough

This decisive action addresses the alarming rise in retail crime, culminating in a comprehensive response that has been met with widespread approval from industry leaders and workers alike. Despite initial doubts about the necessity of such a law, the Prime Minister underscored its importance as a clear deterrent against the criminal elements threatening local businesses and their employees: “enough is enough.”
The introduction of this law has been hailed as a victory for retail workers by Helen Dickinson, Chair of the British Retail Consortium. This sentiment, however, is not universally shared, with Transform Justice pointing to the limited impact of similar measures on assaults against emergency workers.

The new offence carries stringent penalties, including a maximum six-month sentence, potential unlimited fines, and shop bans for offenders. Additionally, the strategy includes tagging for repeat offenders, a £50m investment in facial recognition technology, and enhanced police efforts in utilising CCTV footage, signifying a robust approach to combating retail crime.

The Sentencing Bill clarifies that not all convictions under the new law will lead to imprisonment, with sentences of 12 months or less being suspended in favour of community rehabilitation, barring exceptional circumstances. This is part of a broader initiative to address the challenges of prison overcrowding and court case backlogs.

The announcement aligns with the Labour Party’s long-standing campaign for better protection for shop workers, spotlighting the issue during a campaign visit by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper. Labour’s policy proposals include increasing local police patrols and revitalising high streets by combating anti-social behaviour and repurposing vacant properties.

Despite the Liberal Democrats’ criticisms regarding unresolved shoplifting issues, the government’s commitment to introducing this new offence through its Criminal Justice Bill is a significant step towards aligning with Scotland’s existing protections for retail staff.

The British Retail Consortium, alongside various trade associations and unions, has been advocating for such legislation for over five years. Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the BRC, praised the government’s decisive action as a critical step towards addressing the escalating violence in retail, which saw incidents rise to over 1,300 per day last year.

Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, endorsed the move while urging for similar protections across different sectors, highlighting the essential right of all workers to a safe working environment.

Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, said: Any form of abuse levelled at service professionals is entirely indefensible. The introduction of new protective measures marks a welcome step in the right direction, offering essential safeguards for countless frontline workers who are subjected to intolerable acts of physical aggression. However this matter is not confined to retail workers alone. There is an urgent need to extend these protections to service professionals across various industries who are similarly exposed to daily abuse – including those in transportation, delivery services, and customer support roles. I urge the policing minister to take decisive action by ensuring that incidents of assault on public service workers are distinctly categorized within police records.”

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