The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called for sentencing guidelines to do more to address violence against shopworkers, and for penalties to better reflect both the physical and psychological impact on victims.
The call came in evidence submitted to the Sentencing Council’s consultation on revised guidelines for assault offences.
Figures from the 2020 ACS Crime Report show that there have been more than 50,000 incidents of violence, abuse and threats towards people working in the convenience sector, including almost 10,000 incidents where a weapon was involved.
Additionally, during lockdown, 40% of retailers in the convenience sector reported that there had been an increase in violence and abuse in stores, with many facing Covid-19 related abuse such as coughing and spitting.
In its submission, ACS has called on the Sentencing Council to consider the following areas for assessing harm of shopworkers serving the public:
- · intention to cause fear of serious harm (including disease transmission) should be explicitly referenced as a higher culpability factor increasing offence seriousness, given the increase in coughing and spitting offences related to Covid-19;
- · the sentencing guidelines for assaults must better account for violence against shopworkers and the psychological impacts of these offences, to ensure offenders receive appropriate sanctions and to deter repeat offending;
- · the barriers to the use of ‘serving the public’ as an aggravating factor by magistrates must be understood and resolved to determine whether clearer language is required.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers and their colleagues are on the front line serving their communities and any offences committed against them must be taken seriously by the justice system.
“Tougher sentencing for offences against shopworkers that take into account the physical and psychological damage caused would be a step forward, but are just part of the wider solution to tackling the repeating cycle of violence and abuse faced by retailers and their colleagues on a regular basis.”