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Preet Kaur Gill MP backs Labour’s plans to crack down on soaring shoplifting rates



Preet Kaur Gill spoke to local shop workers at the Co-op on Hagley Road to discuss their experiences on the frontline of a recent surge in shoplifting and violence. 


According to data released in February by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the trade body representing retail businesses in the UK, incidents of customer theft have risen to a record 16.7 million, up from 8 million the previous year. The BRC estimates the cost to retailers last year of this shoplifting epidemic was £1.8bn, up from £950mn and the highest amount on record.  


The impact on shop workers has been clear with incidents of violence and abuse of shop workers soaring by 50% over the past year. The BRC estimates a staggering 1,300 incidents each day last year of racial abuse, sexual harassment, physical assaults and threats with weapons.  


Labour has a plan to tackle soaring rates of shop lifting by reversing the decision by the Conservative Government in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to downgrade the police response to the theft of items worth less than £200.  


Under the 2014 Act, any incidents involving goods below £200 would have to be tried as ‘summary only offences’. This has led to many defendants being able to plead guilty by post and pay a small fine - thereby avoiding a court appearance.  


In practice, it has acted as a signal to the police to deprioritise any enforcement for shoplifting of goods below £200 at all – even in cases of repeat and organised shoplifting - with arrests for theft offences falling from 136,000 in 2018 to just 78,000 in 2022.  


More widely, Labour have pledged to tackle crime across England and Wales by reintroducing neighbourhood policing with 13,000 more police and PCSOs on the streets, including a named officer to lead on tackling anti-social behaviour.  


Preet Kaur Gill, Labour MP for Edgbaston, said:  


“Under the Tories too many communities and high streets are being blighted by staggering increases in shoplifting, up 30 per cent in the last year alone.  


“The Conservative government has decimated neighbourhood policing, leaving our town centres unprotected, and introduced a rule meaning that shoplifting of goods under £200 isn’t being investigated. This Tory ‘Shoplifter’s Charter’ has left local businesses and retail workers at the mercy of criminals.  


"Enough is enough. Labour called for tougher action on criminals who assault shopworkers and only in the past month did the Government finally act. The Tories should follow Labour’s lead again and remove the £200 rule that is letting shoplifters off the hook. 


“Britain cannot afford more damaging decline from the Conservatives on crime and justice. Labour will restore the rule of law on Britain’s high streets and in our town centres.”


ENDS


Notes:  


• Section 176 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014 introduced by Theresa May established a new category of shoplifting, designated ‘low-value shoplifting’ - for shoplifting of goods amounting to less than £200 in value.  


• Under that Act, any incidents involving goods below £200 would have to be tried as ‘summary only offences’ - meaning that unless the defendant opted for a Crown Court jury trial, it would automatically be held at the Magistrates’ Court. The police could charge the cases, and they would also be eligible for the Single Justice Procedure, meaning that a defendant could plead guilty by post and pay a small fine - thereby avoiding a court appearance. 


• The move was designed to ease pressure on the courts and allow the CJS to focus on higher-harm offenders. However in practice, it has acted as a signal to the police to deprioritise any enforcement for shoplifting of goods below £200 at all – even in cases of repeat and organised shoplifting - with arrests for theft offences falling from 136,000 in 2018 to just 78,000 in 2022.  


• By scrapping this sub-category of shoplifting, we will end the farce of repeat shoplifting below £200 going unpunished, and repeat serious and organised criminals avoiding court. It will make it easier to prioritise repeat and organised shoplifting whatever the level of any individual theft so it can be properly dealt with - whilst ensuring that non-court sanctions including pleading guilty by post are reserved for first-time offenders, rather than serious repeat criminals.  


 







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