New offence for assaulting shop workers

Assaulting a shop worker will be made a separate criminal offence in England and Wales as part of the government’s response to a recent wave of shoplifting and retail crime.

The new offence will carry a maximum sentence of six months in prison. Perpetrators could also receive an unlimited fine and be banned from the shop where they committed the offence. Repeat offenders could be forced to wear leg tags so their movements can be tracked and £50 million will be spent on facial recognition technology. Dedicated facial recognition units will be used in high streets to catch perpetrators and prevent shoplifting. Police have been told to check more CCTV images against police databases.

The government will introduce this new offence in its Criminal Justice Bill, which is currently being considered by Parliament.


Is a new offence actually needed?

Earlier this year a report discovered that violent and abusive incidents against shop workers rose by 50% in 2022 - 2023. Helen Dickinson, chair of the British Retail Consortium welcomed the announcement, saying "the voices of the three million people working in retail are finally being heard".

However, the charity Transform Justice argues that a specific offence will not reduce attacks on shop workers. It cited evidence that a new offence of assaulting emergency workers had not seen the number of attacks actually go down.


What is the policy of the Labour Party?

The new law relating to assaulting shop workers is being proposed by the current Conservative government. However, a general election will take place in the UK later in 2024, which could see a change in government. So what does the Labour Party propose to do if they win power?

Creating a new specific offence of assault against shop workers is already Labour Party policy. But in addition, the Party is also promising neighbourhood police patrols to tackle anti-social behaviour and shoplifting, as well as plans to bring empty premises back into use.

The Labour Party also wants to scrap a rule which makes it less likely police will investigate the theft of goods under the value of £200 because they are dealt with less severely by the courts.

Yvette Cooper, Labour's shadow home secretary said: "Labour has been calling for tougher action against those who assault shop workers for more than 10 years. The Tories opposed and voted against our plans for better protection. Why has it taken them so long to act?"

To see hundreds more articles click here to visit our archive