Home Office minister agrees to retail violence meeting

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Home Office minister Victoria Atkins has agreed to meet with retail representative bodies and trade unions to discuss violence against retailers and shopworkers.

The announcement follows amendments - tabled to the Offensive Weapons Bill by David Hanson MP - for tougher sanctions for attacks on shopworkers that are “intentionally obstructed” in exercising their duties.

David Hanson MP said: “Shop staff are upholding the law on our behalf, and they deserve protection… the Association of Convenience Stores have identified violence to staff as the most significant risk in the sector.”

Responding to the amendments, Atkins, who is minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, committed to meet with retail representative bodies and unions to discuss the issue further.

“I agree that we want to ensure that our shop workers feel protected, as well as being protected, by the law,” Atkins said.

“If I may, I will reflect further on new clause 1, and I invite … organisations involved in the retail arena, including trade unions, to the Home Office for a roundtable so we can further discuss the concerns that have been raised this afternoon.”

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) Crime Report 2018 estimated there were over 13,000 incidents of violence committed against retailers over the last year, over a third of which resulted in injury and that enforcing age restrictions is one of the main flash points for violence and abuse.

ACS chief executive, James Lowman, said: “Convenience store colleagues are on the front line enforcing the law on age restricted products, and should not feel threatened for doing their job.

“We are pleased the issue has been debated in parliament and that the Minister has committed to meet to discuss this issues further.

“The government relies on retailers and store colleagues to uphold the law, so we want back up from police and the criminal justice system to send a clear message that violence and verbal abuse is not acceptable and will be acted on.”

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