The murder of a Huddersfield retailer has been met with a deluge of demands for better protection for convenience store workers

The death of Gurmail Singh, who died from injuries received when his store was raided by teenage thugs on February 20, has prompted politicians, trade associations and retail colleagues to demand action to prevent similar incidents.

Philip Dunne MP, chairman of the Conservative Retail Crime Commission, told C-Store that retail crimes had been downgraded in recent years and deserved a proper focus from the Home Office.

“Incidents such as these are heartbreaking and highlight the need for a renewed focus on retail crime,” he said. “Stronger sentences for crimes against retailers need to be introduced.”

Dunne added that lenient penalties are resulting in criminals not being suitably punished for their crimes. “The current sentences for retail crime are creating a carousel for offenders that sees them released far too soon,” he said.

His view was echoed by Shane Brennan, public affairs director at the Association of Convenience Stores.
He said: “Violence against retailers and shopworkers is absolutely unacceptable and the government needs to reclassify the penalties for this offence so that they are similar to that for an attack on an emergency service worker.”

Shopworkers’ union USDAW is also supporting this form of reclassification, while MSP Hugh Henry has proposed a similar bill in Scotland.

Industry watchdog Action Against Business Crime spokesman William Price backed the call, saying that lenient penalties for retail crime send out the wrong message to criminals and that the courts need to support retailers whose lives are being put in jeopardy.

But a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said it did not believe it was necessary to create a new offence or a new maximum penalty for attacks on shopworkers because the maximum penalties available are sufficient to punish even the most serious types of offences. 

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Gurmail’s trade colleagues also demanded further support for the sector. Andrew Wilby of the Yorkshire Independent Grocers Association, of which Gurmail was a member, said retailers were being let down by authorities which persecuted them for age-related sales.

“Many of our members are suffering daily attacks and verbal abuse and yet are being asked to do the government’s dirty work of policing sales of cigarettes and alcohol,” he said.

Batley’s operations director Martin Race, who had known Gurmail for several years, said: “Convenience stores are very much on the front line of crime and we strongly urge government, the police and the community to do more to help protect the essential members of the independent trade who bravely battle on despite such incidents.”

10 days, seven incidents 
C-Stores under attack

February 10: Two men fire a shotgun into the floor of a store in Hurst Green, Surrey
February 13: Five men armed with a machete punch and kick a shop assistant in West Didsbury, Manchester
February 15: A young cashier is threatened at knifepoint during a raid in Preston, Lancashire
February 16: A store owner is stabbed in the leg as robbers steal cash in Dukinfield, Manchester
February 17: A retailer is shot in the neck by raiders at his store in Haringey, London
February 20: A knife-wielding robber punches a c-store worker in Bangor, Northern Ireland
February 20: Gurmail Singh dies after being attacked in Huddersfield