Government must clamp down on violence against workers in any community role, says ACS

We must give credit to Usdaw, the shopworkers' union, for the tireless work it has done in recent years to highlight the problem of intimidation and violence in the retail workplace. Its Freedom from Fear campaign has revealed that one in 10 shopworkers has been the subject of violence, and far more have experienced verbal abuse.

I often wonder about the extent to which ACS should be highlighting this problem in the national media. We don't want to paint a picture to prospective employees and customers that shops are dangerous places. And it's true that the horrifically violent and tragic incidents that we have heard about this year are newsworthy because they are so very rare.

I always shudder when I hear a retailer or a member of their team casually describe the abuse they suffer, and there are few that do not have a story about an incident that has escalated into violence.

The message that I take to government is this. Retailers are too often seen as being part of the problem, rather than victims. Few alcohol strategies, for example, show an understanding of the challenge retailers face preventing underage sales. Even fewer include a commitment to intervene in support of a retailer if they face abuse and violence.

In the case of a violent offence against a police officer, paramedic or firefighter on duty, the courts will treat this as an 'aggravating circumstance' and set a more severe sentence.

Retailers and shop staff serving customers in local shops are performing community service and the law should deal equally harshly with anyone who abuses and attacks them at work.

As this is Freedom From Fear week, I have written to the government and made clear that this should happen.