The Association of Convenience Stores has warned the Sentencing Advisory Panel that a proposal not to send shoplifters to jail is misguided.

An ACS team, led by new chief executive James Lowman, met the panel on Monday to highlight the damage not jailing offenders would do to small retailers. The panel, an independent advisory body to the government, is examining the sentencing of criminals who commit shop theft.

It is considering two options: the first is that a non-violent offence would never attract more than a community order, meaning that even a persistent offender would not be sentenced to jail. The second is to impose a prison sentence for shop theft by a seriously persistent offender.

The ACS is opposed to the panel's first option and is demanding clarity on the second. Lowman said: "Shop theft is a serious crime that impacts on local shops and communities. There must be an option for a custodial sentence."