The Assoication of Convenience Stores has welcomed the Sentencing Council’s new guidelines for shop theft which take into account the impact on victims beyond financial loss when sanctioning offenders. 

The guidelines, used by judges and magistrates to decide the appropriate sentence for a criminal offence, introduces a new approach to assessing the harm of shop theft to take into account the wider impact the crime has on its victims. They emphasise that offences can cause emotional distress, loss of confidence and ‘great disruption and inconvenience’.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “These guidelines’ new approach to assessing harm will help magistrates to make informed decisions about the impact of shop theft on retailers. But for this to work, the police have to take a strong interest in prosecuting shop thieves and the courts have to be willing to take on these cases. Far too often shop theft is ignored or not taken seriously, and this cannot continue.”

However, he raised concerns that the guidelines do not include a separate assessment for repeat offenders.“We fought hard when the Sentencing Advisory Council consulted on this and called for a separate sentencing table to be included within the guidelines with tougher penalties for repeat offenders. We are disappointed that the Sentencing Council’s new guidelines do not distinguish between repeat and first time offenders,” Lowman said.

Shop theft continues to be a serious crime in the convenience sector, with over six in 10 retailers being the victim of shop theft in the last three months and shop theft estimated to have cost the sector over £35m in 2014.