The proposed amendment would bring tougher sentences on those who attack shopworkers

Trade bodies and major retailers have welcomed an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill that would make attacking a shopworker a standalone offence.

Tabled by shadow minster for policing Alex Norris last week, the offence would bring tougher sentencing on offenders, including up to a year in prison.

“Courts need to pass sentences that match the sometimes life-changing consequences of attacks on shopworkers,” said ACS CEO James Lowman.

“A separate offence as set out in Alex Norris’s amendment would give the courts another sentencing option and make clear that such attacks are wholly unacceptable.

“We also need the courts to use the full powers they have now, and we need the police and CPS to make sure such incidents are investigated and pursued through the courts so an appropriate sentence can be handed down.”

An existing provision under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act already sets out to protect shopworkers by making it an aggravated offence to attack them.

However, there is no evidence to suggest how often it has been used, according to Co-op campaign and public affairs director Paul Gerrard.

A standalone offence would “not only send a strong message to police, criminals, and shopworkers”, but it will become “easier to investigate, prosecute, and sentence offenders”, he said.

A similar law came into force in Scotland in 2021, called the Protection of Workers Act, which made it a statutory offence to assault, threaten or abuse a retail worker as they’re going about their job.

Gerrard said since it became an Act, 60% of reported incidents of violence have resulted in someone being charged.

“The emerging evidence from Scotland tells me the police mind has been sharpened, the focus is greater, and they’re taking more effective action to tackle violence against shopworkers,” said Gerrard.

Muntazir Dipoti, the national president of the Federation of Independent Retailers, said: “We campaigned successfully in Scotland for the establishment of a standalone offence for those who abuse or use violence against retail workers. We are glad to see Alex Norris table such a crucial amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill and we call on MPs from all parties to support it.

“Shopworkers have to deal with physical and verbal threats on a near-daily basis. With no current effective deterrent, these attacks in our stores will continue, and will continue to seriously affect the lives of ordinary, innocent people who are simply doing their jobs.”

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said: “We call on MPs of all stripes to support this vital amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill. The Protection of Workers Act in Scotland already provides additional protection to retail workers, so why should our hardworking colleagues south of the border be offered less protection?

“This amendment would show a clear commitment to making frontline retail workers safer in their place of work. It would also increase the visibility of incidents so police forces can allocate appropriate resources and ensure they provide an adequate response to incidents.”