I suppose I shouldn’t really have been that surprised. I mean, there had been some indications over the past few years - a little phrase here, a little inaction there, but even so when it finally came I found it sadly staggering. What I’m talking about is the official, public announcement that as far as this government is concerned small retailers are of no significance. We don’t matter. In the grand scheme of things we are expendable. If we chose to be small independent retailers then that’s our choice and we have to accept the consequences. Don’t come whingeing, don’t expect any help. In fact about the only thing a small retailer can expect from No 10 these days is more red tape and more taxes.
I can think of no other interpretation that can be made of the recent announcement about the treatment of shoplifters. In future, any shoplifter who is suffering from an addiction won’t get sent to prison no matter how many times he is caught, even if he has threatened you or your staff with violence.
Let’s examine that phrase ’suffering from an addiction.’ Why do the toe-rags shoplift? There are a few, mainly the little old lady clan, who suffer from kleptomania. A genuine illness that needs treatment. There are a few who do it for easy money. These are usually the well-organised gangs. But the majority - the vast majority that we have to put up with day in and day out - shoplift to feed a drink or drugs addiction. These are the ones who are often high by the time they come into our shops and are the ones who can be most dangerous for our staff to deal with. More often than not, if a cashier is on their own, these are the ones who are allowed to just scoop up what they want and leave unchallenged.
Now, contrary to popular opinion, my politics aren’t really those of Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan. I don’t want these criminals hung drawn and quartered. I actually believe that they need long-term treatment to free them from the shackles of the bottle or the needle. I’m even quite prepared for the taxes I pay from my hard-earned income to be put towards this end. But, most importantly, what I really do want is for these poor excuses for humanity to be taken out of circulation. I don’t want to keep seeing the same old faces on my expensive CCTV.
I recently went to a police liaison meeting where a fall in burglaries in that area was being trumpeted. The reason was simple, the police had targeted three individuals who were responsible for more than 30% of the break-ins and had them locked up at Her Majesty’s local bed and breakfast. This is not rocket science. This is not some highfaluting theory from an over-paid, academic, government-funded, think tank. This is just bloody common sense.
So why are we being hung out to dry? We all know that there aren’t enough prison places, so the government is desperate to find a way of dealing with a problem of its own making. It started by letting people out early and has even widened the category of those it will consider for that. But still there aren’t enough places. It has already significantly reduced the numbers entering the court system by decriminalising many offences. A cynic might also add that the introduction of graded responses has further reduced the already slim chances of the police even turning up to apprehend a villain. Still there aren’t enough places.
So who can they afford to annoy with their policies and suffer the least consequences? Those little people who suffer a large amount of crime but don’t account for many votes. Their calculation is that their future won’t be determined by the outrage felt by the likes of you and me. I wish they were wrong. Sadly, they are probably callously correct. This from a government which was elected on the slogan ’tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’. This is hypocrisy of the highest level. A bloody disgrace.