Surge in retail violence leads to call for stiffer penalties

115 retail workers are attacked every day, despite record spending on crime prevention by retailers (£1 billion in the past year).

A Private Members Bill, proposed in the last session of Parliament, endorses stronger penalties for offenders attacking shop workers and also reviews the sentencing guidelines for assault.

There’s no shortage of reports of bike thieves targeting bike shops, but the bulk of these appear take place (anecdotally) out of hours and with little violence directed at shop owners and workers. That’s not always the case – earlier this year, London Bridge store On Your Bike faced four thieves in a case of aggravated theft during the working day.

The British Retail Consortium is backing the bill.

“Violence against shop workers is one of the biggest concerns for retailers, with a shocking 115 attacks every day,” said BRC Chief Exec Helen Dickinson OBE. “Despite record spending of nearly £1 billion on crime prevention, incidents are still on the rise. We call for a specific criminal offence to protect retail employees from attacks at work, as it has been done for emergency workers. It is unacceptable for anyone to go to work fearing threats and violence.”

David Hanson MP, Labour, said: “Retail crime is a public policy crisis of epic proportions. Critical action is needed to protect our hard-working shop workers from violence in the workplace. I receive many shocking accounts from retail workers on an all-to-regular basis about daily attacks. Current measures in place are insufficient and new measures need to be introduced following recent government consultation.”

Stephen Hammond MP, Independent, said: “It is extremely concerning that the level of violence and intimidation against retail workers is rising. There is a clear need for tough new legislation to protect the UK’s 3 million retail workers. I fully endorse the BRC’s campaign to strengthen penalties for this type of crime.”

Paddy Lillis, General Secretary at Usdaw, said: “The mounting evidence from retailers and Usdaw’s own survey of shop workers shows a disturbing increase in retail crime. This cannot be allowed to continue, action must be taken, we need legislation to tackle violence, threats and abuse against shop workers. Retail staff are an important part of our communities; their role must be valued, respected and protected.”

With Parliament now dissolved until the 12 December General Election, and then facing the Christmas break, it seems highly unlikely much progress will be made on the bill to protect retail workers until far into the New Year.