Tougher new penalties against shoplifters have been welcomed

by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

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 who are not drug users.

Justice secretary Jack Straw has also tightened the definition of retail theft so that £80 on-the-spot fines can now be used only 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 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 (see News, p10).

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