The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called for out of court penalties to be restricted to first time thieves as part of its response to the Ministry of Justice’s review of out of court penalties.

In its submission to the review, ACS highlighted that while out of court penalties are frequently used for theft and other crimes against shops, retailers are not convinced that they are effective in deterring criminals from repeat offending.

The submission notes that closer consultation with victims is imperative for shop theft incidents, as retailers have a much better idea of the offenders’ background, habits and behaviour.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers are not adequately consulted on the penalties and cautions issued to shop thieves, resulting in too many repeat offenders not being dealt with. The use of out of court penalties for repeat offenders perpetuates the myth that shop theft is a victimless crime and this cannot continue.

“We urge the Ministry of Justice to take action to ensure that out of court penalties are only used for first time offenders, along with a simplification of the out of court disposal system so that retailers and the public can understand how offenders are being managed.”

Research conducted by ACS as part of the quarterly Voice of Local Shops Survey shows in the last three months alone, 75% of retailers have experienced some form of shop theft in their store. In addition, Home Office statistics show that 94% of all incidents of crime against the retail and wholesale sector were from theft of stock.