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Closed petition Make abuse or violence towards retail workers a standalone criminal offence

We are calling on the Government to make violence or abuse against retail workers a standalone criminal offence. This is necessary to send a strong signal to victims and perpetrators; to give workers the legal protection they deserve; and to tackle the scourge of abuse plaguing the retail sector.

More details

The British Retail Consortium’s crime survey found that violence and abuse against retail workers has almost doubled from more than 450 incidents per day in 2019-20 to over 850 last year. This is unacceptable. Last year, after a long-running campaign by retailers and USDAW, the UK Government made attacking shopworkers an aggravating factor in assault convictions. This was welcome but, one year on with the epidemic of violence against colleagues continuing, it is clear that we need to go further.

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Government responded

This response was given on 30 October 2023

The Government is committed to supporting hardworking retail workers, who can suffer intolerable violence and abuse, but we do not think more legislative change is required or will be most effective.

Shops are at the heart of our communities and neighbourhoods, and we are grateful for all those who provide a valuable service by working within the retail sector.

The Government is clear that violent and abusive behaviour towards any worker, particularly those who provide a valuable service to the public, is never acceptable. We recognise the implications these incidents can have on businesses as well as victims.

The Government sympathises and is committed to supporting those retail workers that suffer violence and abuse; however, we do not believe a further change in legislation here is required or will result in the most positive impact.

We introduced a statutory aggravating factor for assault against any public-facing worker via section 156 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. The aggravating factor applies where an offence is committed against someone providing a public service, performing a public duty or providing a service to the public, including retail workers. As a result, the courts must take into account this aggravating factor during sentencing. We did this to emphasise that these types of assaults are totally unacceptable, and these crimes should be taken seriously and reported to the police.

The Retail Crime Action Plan was launched on 23 October 2023 and is a significant commitment by the police to transform the response to retail crime and increase public confidence. The Action Plan also includes vital advice for retailers about how to provide best possible evidence to assist the police. In the context of the recent commitment to follow up all reasonable lines of enquiry, for shoplifting this includes always retrieving CCTV footage where it is available and running it through the Police National Database (PND) for a face match, and then where appropriate trying the passport, asylum, visa, immigration enforcement, EU Settled Status and Europol databases to seek a face match if one isn’t found on the PND.

Furthermore, a partnership between thirteen major retailers and policing to tackle organised retail crime - Pegasus - was also launched on the same day as the Retail Crime Action Plan with Government support. The Pegasus partnership will fund a new capability within Opal, the National Intelligence Unit for Serious and Organised Acquisitive Crime, which will support police forces in identifying the Organised Crime Groups in their local areas so they can be effectively targeted. It will also radically improve the way retailers are able to share intelligence with policing. The Action Plan also prioritises police attendance at the scene where violence has been used or where an offender has been detained by store security, in particular for repeat, prolific or juvenile offenders.

Home Office

MPs debate violence and abuse towards the retail workforce

On Tuesday 5 December, MPs took part in a Westminster Hall debate on violence and abuse towards the retail workforce. The debate was led by Liz Twist MP, and the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, Chris Philp MP responded to the debate on behalf of the Government.

What is a Westminster Hall debate?

Westminster Hall is the second chamber of the House of Commons. Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local and national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Westminster Hall debates are general debates that do not end in a vote.

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