zero tolerance

The law brings tougher penalties on those who attack shopworkers

A new law which brings tougher penalties on those who attack shopworkers has come into force. 

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act was given royal assent on 28 April. It sees new provisions come into force that make attacking individuals who serve the public an aggravated offence.

The ACS and NFRN have welcomed the passing of the new law, which alongside other groups, such as Usdaw, have been campaigning to better protect shopworkers who face abuse when doing their job.

Levels of abuse reached new highs during the pandemic, as figures from the ACS 2022 Crime Report showed that in the past year, 89% of colleagues working in convenience stores have faced abuse in their job. More than 35,000 incidents of violence have taken place, with over 16,000 incidents including the use of a weapon.

ACS co-ordinated with over 100 retailers and other trade bodies the Home Office-backed ShopKind campaign, urging customers to be respectful of colleagues in stores. Polling conducted for the campaign showed that more than a third of consumers had witnessed violence and abuse against shopworkers.

“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 prioritise 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.”

NFRN 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 attacked verbally or physically 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.”