The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill that would make assaulting a shopworker a more serious offence.

The measures to protect shop workers have advanced to the Report Stage, which will begin to be debated in parliament today and is set to include a series of amendments.

The proposed amendments aim to establish the following measures as law:

  • Make assaulting a shopworker while they’re at work a separate offence
  • Introduce new community orders for prolific shoplifters after their third offence
  • Introduce the option to require offenders to wear an electronic tag to monitor their whereabouts, or to impose curfew requirements on them

The amendments are part of the Government’s wider commitment to tackle retail crime, which includes improvements to reporting procedures and a £55m investment over the next four years in facial recognition technology to identify repeat offenders.

Figures from the 2024 ACS Crime Report found that retailers have recorded over 600 incidents of theft per hour over the last year, along with around 76,000 incidents of violence in local shops.

The ACS has consistently called on both central government and local Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCS) to make tackling retail crime a priority because of the enormous financial, mental and physical toll that it takes on retailers and their colleagues.

The British Retail Consortium and the Co-op have also called on PCCs to prioritse retail crime. 

Chief executive of the ACS James Lowman warned that running a convenience store business can be extremely challenging when a store is being targeted by thieves and abusive criminals.

“The creation of a standalone offence for assaulting a shopworker is an important step forward that demonstrates to the more than 400,000 colleagues in our sector that government is backing them and recognises the essential service that they provide on a daily basis,” Lowman commented.

Speaking to Convenience Store, Tom Dant, managing director of Lincolnshire-based Gill Marsh Forecourts, which operates three Spar stores, also agreed that the standalone offence for assaulting a shopworker is a step in the right direction, but stressed that stricter penalties and improved rehabilitation for criminals need to be enforced to deter repeat offenders.

“In April we had our MP in one of our stores and we we’re talking about retail crime, and she brought one of our local policing team with her and she was pressing back on them to make sure we are being supported, so that’s good.

”I think the offence for assaulting a shopworker, will it stop people? No, probably not. It might just mean that the ones that get caught will receive a slightly tougher sentence than before. It tents to be for us the ones that get caught are the serial ones that are in and out of prison constantly, so clearly the system of rehabilitation is broken. That’s probably where that needs more support and change. I think if you can rehabilitate them, so they don’t reoffence when they come out, then that sort of starts to tackle the problem and the cycle”.