The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has urged the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to press ahead with a review of the use of cautions for offences such as shop theft.

The MoJ has announced new guidance for the police stipulating that that criminals should not get more than one ‘simple’ caution in a two-year period for the same, or similar offence, except in exceptional circumstance and if it is signed off by an Inspector.

In addition it said there would be a review to look at all current adult out of court disposals which include simple cautions, conditional cautions, fixed penalty notices, penalty notices for disorder, cannabis warnings and community resolutions. The review will conclude in spring 2014.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “When cautions and fixed penalty notices are used inappropriately, it results in criminals who damage communities and businesses going unpunished, and sends the message that shop theft is in some way a victimless or secondary crime.

“We would like the use of these penalties to be reviewed so that our members are supported and offenders receive the right penalties and rehabilitation at an early stage.”

ACS has consistently argued for the more appropriate use of fixed penalty notices, after police data revealed that in 2011, 34,688 notices were issued for retail theft under £200. Over half of these notices (18,411) went unpaid.

ACS had pledged to work with the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and police to promote the better use of cautions and fixed penalty notices.