Shoplifters who target independent retailers will face harsher penalties according to new guidelines from the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC).

The new guidelines for judges and magistrates on theft, burglary (non-dwelling) and breach of ASBOs advises that higher sentences be imposed for thieves who target small independent retailers as they are deemed to be more vulnerable to theft.

Council member Malathy Sitaram hoped that the guidelines would help deter shoplifters who prey on smaller stores, adding: “We have responded to those who made a strong case about the impact of shoplifting on small shopkeepers by recognising that offenders who target small independent retailers may cause a greater level of harm which should be taken into account.”

The SGC has also decided to retain custodial sentences for repeat offenders. According to the guidelines, a first-time shoplifter will receive a fine whereas those with previous convictions will face community or custodial sentences. Organised shoplifting gangs who those who use or threaten force will receive a minimum sentence of 12 months custody.

ACS chief executive James Lowman welcomed the announcement. He said: “It is important that magistrates have a range of sanctions to punish and deter repeat offenders. Shop theft is a crime that harms livelihoods and jobs and there has to be an effective deterrent.”