The government has been urged to limit out of court penalties to first time offenders.

In its submission to the Ministry of Justice review on out of court disposals, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) advised that they only be used for first-time thieves as they were not working as an effective deterrent against repeat offenders,.

ACS research revealed that in the past three months 75% of retailers had experienced some form of shop theft in their store, while Home Office statistics showed that 94% of all incidents of crime against the retail and wholesale sector involved theft of stock.

Chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers are not adequately consulted on the penalties and cautions issued to shop thieves, resulting in too many repeat offenders not being dealt with. The use of out of court penalties for repeat offenders perpetuates the myth that shop theft is a victimless crime and this cannot continue.

“We urge the Ministry of Justice to take action to ensure that out of court penalties are only used for first time offenders, along with a simplification of the out of court disposal system so that retailers and the public can understand how offenders are being managed.”