Retailers have won a rare and valuable victory over shop thieves, as James Lowman relates

I know that the use of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) being used for shop thieves isn’t one of the most popular initiatives this government has come up with, but recent news about changes in the way that FPNs are to be used isn’t just spin – we’ve really made a difference to how FPNs can tackle shop theft and I’m urging retailers to work with the police to try to make them effective.

Our members have been telling us that thieves are being issued tickets a number of times, making a mockery of the idea that they should only ever be issued to first time offenders. Too many FPNs are left unpaid, which also undermines the system, and retailers, the victims of shop theft, aren’t being consulted as they should be.

We’ve gathered evidence from members, argued the case for better use of FPNs, and ultimately we have won the argument. The Ministry of Justice accepts that FPNs were not being used properly and their revised guidance published this week, addresses head-on the concerns we put across to them.

I know from my meeting with Justice Secretary Jack Straw that he firmly believes that shop theft is a serious crime that should be treated as such, and now it is up to the police to implement FPNs appropriately.

Many of you may still find that the use of FPNs for any shop theft sticks in your craw, and I understand that view. However we also have to be aware that the average penalty for a shop thief processed by the courts is – wait for it - £80. So FPNs can offer a comparable punishment for first time offenders if used effectively.

Have a look at our web site (www.acs.org.uk) for more details of your rights on FPNs, but let’s be grateful that we can point to an issue where the needle really has moved in our favour.