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Assaulting shop workers to become specific offence

SHOP WORKERS in communities to get the protection they deserve as Government announce assaulting a retail worker will be made a standalone criminal offence, sending a clear message that there will be tough consequences for this unacceptable behaviour.

Following a record year for retail crime across the industry, Co-op welcomes plans announced by the Government today to introduce legislation to make attacks and assaults on shop workers a standalone offence as part of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Under the plans, perpetrators could be sent to prison for up to six months, receive an unlimited fine and be banned from going back to the shop where they committed their crimes, with Criminal Behaviour Orders barring them visiting specific premises. Breaching an order is also a criminal offence and carries a five-year maximum prison sentence. For the most serious cases of assault, such as causing grievous bodily harm with intent, offenders could face a life sentence.

The Co-op described the move as a victory for co-operation as its member-owners joined shop workers and communities to call for urgent change following unprecedented levels of attacks and assaults against all retail workers.

Earlier this year, a hard-hitting new report commissioned by Co-op, and written by Professor of Criminology at City, University of London, Emmeline Taylor, set out a ten point plan focused on turning the tide on prolific and repeat offenders who relentlessly blight communities and wreak physical and mental harm on store workers.

Central to the report’s recommendations is making an attack on shop workers a stand-alone offence which is something the Co-op has campaigned for since 2018 – and today’s announcement is seen as a move which builds on the advancements seen to address crime, violence and intimidation since the introduction of the Retail Crime Action Plan.

Shirine Khoury-Haq, Chief Executive of the Co-op, said, “This announcement will resonate with shop workers the length and breadth of the country.

“As a Co-op, we exist to make a genuine difference for our 5 million member owners and the issues they care about. This change shows the true power of co-operation, with our Co-op member-owners having called for this urgent change to ensure no shop worker should face violence or abuse as part of their job.

“It will make a real difference to the lives of not only thousands of our Co-op colleagues, but also shop workers across the nation and it sends a strong and clear message to shop workers that they have been listened to, and a warning to criminals that their unacceptable behaviour will no longer be tolerated.”

Paul Gerrard, Co-op Director of Public Affairs and Campaigning, said, “Co-op sees every day the violence and threats our colleagues, like all retail workers, face as they serve the communities they live in. We have long called for a standalone offence of attacking or abusing a shop worker and so we very much welcome the Government’s announcement today.

“Co-op will re-double its work with police forces but these measures will undoubtedly, when implemented, keep our shop workers safer, protect the shops they work in and, help the communities they serve.”

Co-op has invested more than £200 million over recent years in colleague and store safety and security, this includes the latest interactive CCTV; body-worn cameras – which Co-op has used since 2019 to capture real time audio and visual footage at the touch of a button; the roll-out of fortified kiosks; use of dummy (or empty) packaging to deter bulk-theft and, covert (undercover) and non-covert guarding – with the tactical use of specially trained guards able to detain criminals.