The government recently published the full details of its Anti-Social Behaviour Bill.

ACS has been heavily involved with the development of new policies, contained in the Bill, that will make a real difference to retailers who are affected by crime in their stores. The ’community trigger’ will make it impossible for police to ignore retailers when they report repeat incidents of the same crime. Also the new ’community remedy’ will give victims of low-level crime and anti-social behaviour a say in the type of punishment that is given to an offender (although some may regret that time in the stocks is not included).

Retailers will also be able to provide ’business impact statements’ to help inform sentencing decisions.

Forecourt retailers will especially benefit from these new measures because of the disproportionately high burden of crime felt, not just from the theft and anti-social behaviour that affects all c-stores, but also drive-offs and other forecourt-specific crime.

But it’s a great shame that, at the last minute, a new clause was added to the Bill, potentially undermining these positive measures with a significant change to the way the criminal justice system treats shop theft offences on forecourts and other c-stores. Clause 133 aims to downgrade the seriousness of shop theft under the value of £200 to a ’summary offence’, making it similar in nature to minor traffic offences. This means that it would no longer be possible to prosecute such offences in a Crown Court.

In a debate on the Bill in Parliament, local shop champion Priti Patel MP implored the government to clarify the new rules and ensure that a court’s ability to punish shop thieves is not undermined.

Since then, the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group has expressed its concern over the changes and written to Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne about the impact of the new proposals, calling on the minister to reassure retailers that they will not lead to fewer convictions of those who steal from local shops.

We will continue to rally MPs to support tough sanctions against shop thieves, and we urge you to explain to your local MP how damaging shop theft is to your store.