New tougher penalties for shoplifters have been announced by Justice Secretary Jack Straw which will see on-the-spot fines limited to first offence, low-value thefts, while more serious retail crimes will be dealt with by the courts.

The changes mean that Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) will now be limited to shoplifters who have stolen less than £100 in goods, or caused less than £300 damages, and are not drug users. 

The Minister also tightened the definition of retail theft so that £80 on-the-spot fines can now only be used in shoplifting cases where the goods stolen are recovered and fit to be re-sold.

On-the-spot fines for shoplifting will also now be limited to first-time offenders. 

The revised guidance comes after a series of meetings between the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and the justice secretary, where retailers’ concerns over the effectiveness of PNDs were discussed, and coincides with new statistics which reveal that there has been a 10% rise in shoplifting in the past year.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said the outcome was a “step in the right direction,” but warmed that a wider strategy to deal with shop crime was still urgently needed.

“We hope these changes will make on the spot fine act as a deterrent and reduce reoffending,” he said.

“ACS will work to ensure retailers are aware of these changes and make sure they are adopted by the Police. Shop theft is not a victimless crime and costs our industry millions of pounds a year,” he added.