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Assault on retail workers to be made ‘standalone’ crime

Offenders who assault retail workers “could be sent to prison for up to six months” under new measures to tackle retail crime, the government has announced.  

“Assaulting a retail worker will be made a standalone criminal offence”, the Home Office announced this week (April 10).

The new offence comes with the threat that perpetrators “could be sent to prison for up to six months”, given an “an unlimited fine” or receive a “criminal behaviour” order, which bars offenders from visiting “specific premises”, it said.

It added that breaching an order “carries a five-year maximum prison sentence” and that “offenders could face a life sentence” for the “most serious cases of assault, such as causing grievous bodily harm with intent”.

But it remains unclear when the new measure will come into force.


Tracker tags and facial recognition


The Home Office said that the new criminal offence is part of a “retail crime crackdown” by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to send a “clear message that there will be tough consequences for this unacceptable behaviour”.

Other new measures include forcing serial offenders “to wear tags to track their movements” – “a constant and physical reminder to offenders that…they risk being sent to prison if they refuse to obey the rules”, it added.

And police will expand the use of “facial recognition technology to help catch perpetrators and prevent shoplifting”, backed by a £55.5 million investment over the next four years, it said.

The “state of the art technology” will be used by “mobile units” that “will take live footage of crowds in towns and on high streets, comparing images to specific people wanted by the police”, the Home Office added.


“Enough is enough”


Sunak said that he was “sending a message to those criminals…who think they can get away with stealing from these local businesses or abusing shopworkers [that] enough is enough.”

“Since 2010, violent and neighbourhood crime in England and Wales has fallen dramatically…yet shoplifting and violence and abuse towards retail workers continues to rise,” he added.

He stressed that local businesses “must be free to trade without the threat of crime or abuse”.

Boots managing director Seb James said that the multiple welcomed the measures announced by the government.

“Intimidation and abuse of retail workers is unacceptable, so legislation to strengthen shopworker protection sends a powerful signal,” he added.

He said that Boots also continues to invest in its “own capability to disrupt and deter criminal activity and protect” its team members such as CCTV monitoring and body cameras.

In October, Boots announced that it had joined other retailers in collectively pledging £840,000 to launch “Operation Pegasus” aimed at tackling retail crime.

It also found that at least 1,437 reports of violent crimes in pharmacies were reported to the police in 2021, with violent crime accounting for 17.9% of all crimes in pharmacies reported in 2021.

Meanwhile, C+D last week revealed that the number of sexual offences in pharmacies reported to UK police forces rose 55% in one year.

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