Some of the countries biggest supermarkets and retailers have brought about strict new laws that will affect all shoppers. These include Asda, Aldi, Tesco, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Iceland.
Shoppers in high-street stores Home Bargains, Primark, TK Maxx and B&M will also be affected by the new rules.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act has introduced tougher penalties for shoppers who attack any shop workers.
It came into legislation on April 28 and follows a rise in staff workers facing abuse from members of the public during the pandemic, reports The Manchester Evening News.
Shoppers not complying with the new legislation will now face tougher punishments, including jail time.
“We strongly welcome the introduction of this act, which the retail sector has been calling for over a number of years,” said ACS CEO James Lowman. “It’s essential that the penalties for attacking a shopworker serve as an effective deterrent.
“Introducing tougher sentences for those who attack people providing a service to the public, including shopworkers, marks a significant step forward, but it does not solve the problem by itself. We need to ensure that abuse is not seen as part of the job and that all incidents are reported, and in response, Police and Crime Commissioners must prioritize crimes committed against retailers and their colleagues. We must also put the right interventions in place to stop those with substance and alcohol dependencies from reoffending.”
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents national president Narinder Randhawa said: “Attacks against store owners and their staff have been increasing for a number of years, so I am pleased that we are now being given the same protection in law as other frontline workers. Being verbally or physically attacked while just going about your daily business should not be tolerated and seen as part of the job.
“The important thing now is that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service work together to ensure this new law is an effective deterrent and not just a piece of paper. It’s essential that retailers report all incidents to highlight the scale of the problem, and the police response has to improve if retail crime is to be tackled head on.”
Demands to encourage mask-wearing and maintain social distancing rules triggered a major spike in abuse, threats and violence during lockdown. Co-op retail boss Jo Whitfield was one of the first chains to speak out after a spike in complaints from staff.
The Co-op said it had recorded a 140% surge in criminal activity, with more than 200,000 of those cases including violent or non-violent shoplifting. Ms Whitfield said: “Colleagues have been terrorized with axes and physically punched. Another was hospitalized with a punctured lung and broken ribs after being attacked by three shoplifters over a £10 bottle of spirits. The problem is not a Co-op one, or a retailer one – it is a societal one.”
Rival grocer Iceland recorded 650 instances of verbal abuse and 30 of physical assault arising from customers’ refusals to comply with Covid rules during the same period. A spokesman said: “The majority of violent incidents continue to relate to shoplifting.” Andrew Opie at the British Retail Consortium said: “Sadly, this [enforcement of face coverings] has led to a sharp rise in incidents of violence and abuse against shop workers, which is why it is essential police support the work being done by retailers.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.