Written evidence submitted by Anonymous (VTR0017)
[Note: This evidence has been redacted by the Committee. “***” represents redacted text. Text in square brackets has been inserted where text has been redacted.]
- I write in support of the campaign to introduce an additional legislative offence of ‘Aggravated Shoplifting’.
- We have an effective online incident reporting system within our stores in order that we can quickly respond to store incidents and support our colleagues suffering both physical and verbal abuse. We actively encourage our store teams to report all incidents suffered. During the previous few years we have noted increasing numbers of incidents of violence and threats of violence against our store teams. We categorise all our offences and we can demonstrate that the most common form of violence suffered, is when offenders are stealing our merchandise. It is becoming much more common to attack or threaten to attack our staff during the commission of the offence, which causes anxiety, staff leaving and worse on occasions, long term sickness due to injury or mental health. Regular verbal threats such as “try and stop me and I will stab you” or “I am carrying a syringe don’t even bother” are not uncommon, but are not currently captured by Police systems or recorded as offences and predominantly the matter is simply noted as ‘shoplifting’ and given little priority by the enforcement authorities. There are often no weapons produced by the offenders, but even so, the distress and fear suffered by our staff in these situations is paramount but ignored by the current Criminal Justice System. We, as a Company, go to great lengths to deliver a safe environment and provide full training to prepare our store teams and supply store security personnel to protect them on occasions, but, the propensity to violence or threats of violence makes this task increasingly difficult.
- I can report that in this year 2020/21 almost 20% 1 in 5 of our incidents involving theft from our stores, that our employees suffered from either violence or threats of violence; a truly disgraceful figure and one which surely demonstrates the propensity that offenders are willing to resort to these tactics to make good their escape, probably knowing that the crime will be ultimately be recorded as ‘shoplifting’ and so have minimal follow up investigation by the authorities, or, taken into consideration when sentencing by the courts in the unlikely event of arrest and prosecution.
- We, as a Company, are fully supportive of, and understand the pressures the Police are currently facing but, in quite a number of offences involving violence, our store teams are informed that ‘as the offenders have left the store’ it is not a priority offence and therefore Police will not attend. Now, I ask that you try and put yourself in the position of a colleague who is both proud of and enjoys their place of work, a place that has just been sullied by offenders, one where they now feel violated and at risk and then informed that there is no Police response available because it is merely a ‘shoplifting’ offence. In reality, it is so much more than that, and, this is the reason that a new offence needs to be created. The world of retail and offenders has changed so much since 1968 when the current Theft Act was enacted.
- I mentioned earlier, that we are an international retailer operating world wide. I ask that the panel to also consider why, in the UK as compared to EVERY other country we operate in, is our country suffering the largest number Violence or Threats of Violence incidents as a percentage against theft? This surely is a very clear statement that our current legislation is not fit for purpose and needs to be reviewed urgently to protect our hard working public facing employees.