The Home Office has assured retailers that controversial amendments to the impending Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill will not downgrade shop theft.

Speaking at the Association of Convenience Stores Crime Prevention Forum earlier this month, Tanya Manning of the Home Office Crime and Criminal Justice Unit said the amendments were designed to help retailers rather than place them at greater risk.

“These changes are not meant to downgrade shop theft, but rather give more power and discretion to police, and speedier justice for victims,” she said. “The aim is to remove delays and duplication within the system. The changes will not apply to those with multiple offences where the stolen goods total more than £200, and crimes involving aggravating factors such as violence or hate crimes.”

The Bill attracted outrage from retailers and politicians when last-minute amendments were introduced which meant that shop theft of goods under the value of £200 would be classified as a summary offence, removing the prospect of the case being heard in Crown Court. The Bill is expected to be given Royal Assent by April 2014.

The Home Office also detailed plans to streamline the justice system, specifically retail crime. Said Manning: “Earlier this year the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service and the police looked at the end-to-end process for shop theft and examined where changes could be made to improve the response. As a result, the police are now working with the British Retail Consortium on several proposals, such as use of CCTV as evidence and the collection of guilty pleas and witness statements in-store.”