Retail bosses urge Suella Braverman to crack down on assaults of shop workers

More than 80 retail leaders – including bosses of some of Yorkshire’s biggest businesses – have joined forces to call for tougher legal action on thefts from retail stores and increasing violence towards workers.

A letter organised by the British Retail Consortium and signed by senior officials from the likes of Asda, Morrisons, Card Factory and Burberry has been sent to Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

The industry is making dual demands of the Government; firstly seeking the creation of a new standalone offence of assaulting or abusing a retail worker with tough sentences imposed.

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It also wants Ms Braverman to order police forces around the country to make retail crime a greater priority.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been urged to take action. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireHome Secretary Suella Braverman has been urged to take action. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been urged to take action. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The BRC said: “For one major retailer, the police's own data shows that they failed to respond to 73 per cent of serious retail crimes that were reported. 44 per cent of retailers in the BRC’s annual crime survey rated the police response as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “It is vital that action is taken before the scourge of retail crime gets any worse.

"We are seeing organised gangs threatening staff with weapons and emptying stores. We are seeing violence against colleagues who are doing their job and asking for age verification.

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"We are seeing a torrent of abuse aimed at hardworking shop staff. It’s simply unacceptable – no one should have to go to work fearing for their safety.

“It’s time the Government put their words into action.

"We need to see a standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker – as exists in Scotland. We need Government to stand with the millions of retail workers who kept us safe and fed during the pandemic – and support them, as those workers supported us.”

It comes after a BRC Crime Survey found that incidents of violence and abuse towards retail colleagues had almost doubled on pre-pandemic levels to 867 incidents every day in 2021/22. It also put the scale of retail theft at £953m, despite over £700m in crime prevention spending by retailers. This meant the total cost of retail crime stood at £1.76bn for the 12-month period to April.

Aa separate BRC survey of members in 2023 found that levels of shoplifting in ten major cities had risen by an average of 27 per cent.

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Other major companies to sign the letter are Aldi, Boots, Greggs, HMV, Iceland, Ikea and John Lewis, as well as Tesco and Superdrug.

The letter states: “In 2021, the government amended the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to place into statute the aggravating factor applied by the courts in cases of assault, as set out in Sentencing Council guidelines, for offences committed against those providing a public service or performing a public duty. This was welcomed by the retail industry as it showed the government understood the scale of the issue, but it is now clear that it did not go far enough.

"The Ministry of Justice is not able to track data on the amendment, so it is impossible to tell if it is effective, yet the situation in our businesses continues to deteriorate.”

Last month Ms Braverman told Parliament that the Government has told police to “follow every reasonable line of inquiry” in retail crime cases.

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She said: “That will now mean that footage from CCTV, online evidence of resale and other actionable evidence will be followed up on by the police, leading to investigations and leading to justice.”

The Home Office was contacted for comment.