The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has criticised MPs’ decision to vote down the introduction of a new clause in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would have made attacking a retail worker a separate offence.

New Clause 31, proposed by Shadow Policing Minister Sarah Jones MP, would have created a new offence for assaulting a retail worker by introducing a new, separate offence for assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker; plus an aggravated offence with an increased imprisonment term of up to 12 months

The clause was subject to a vote in the House of Commons during a debate on the PCSC Bill, and was defeated by 350 votes to 233. Another clause looking to bring in similar provisions (new clause 90) was withdrawn.

The vote comes just days after the Home Affairs Select Committee, led by Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, made a series of recommendations to better protect shopworkers, including the introduction of a new offence for attacking a shopworker.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We are disappointed that the Government has again refused to action bringing to justice those who attack shopworkers. These offences must not be tolerated, and it’s clear that the existing legislation does not go far enough to deter offenders.

”We urge the Government to take forward the recommendations made by the Home Affairs Committee, which include not just a new offence, but a wide range of measures to stop reoffending, intervene with rehabilitation for those with addiction, and increase reporting and response rates.”

Figures from the 2021 ACS Crime Report show that there were over 40,000 violent attacks against people working in convenience stores and 1.1m incidents of theft over the last year, many of which committed by repeat offenders with a drug or alcohol addiction. The report also shows that there have been over 1.2m incidents of abuse over the last year, which often go unreported.

In evidence submitted to the Public Bill Committee on the PCSC Bill earlier this year, ACS has called for the inclusion of the following measures:

  • Introduce tougher penalties for attacks on shopworkers, recognising their role in enforcing the law and supporting their communities.
  • Ensure that the new system of cautions is effective in dealing with repeat shop theft offences.

The progress of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill can be followed here: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2839