The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed new guidelines for judges and magistrates when sentencing offenders for shop theft and drive-offs.

The Sentencing Council’s new sentencing guidelines emphasise the emotional distress and the effect on the business when sanctioning offenders.

The guidelines, used by judges and magistrates to decide the appropriate sentence for a criminal offence, introduces a new approach to assessing the harm of shop theft and drive-offs to take into account the wider impact the crime has on its victims.

In the case of drive-offs it recommends a spectrum of sentences depending on other aggravating or mitigating circumstances, ranging from a fine equivalent to 175% of the offender’s weekly income to a low-level community order. It recommends that such an order could include: 40-80 hours unpaid work; a curfew for a few weeks; and exclusion requirement for a few months.

However, ACS has raised concerns that the guidelines do not include a separate assessment for repeat offenders.

ACS chief executive, James Lowman said: “We fought hard when the Sentencing Advisory Council consulted on this and called for a separate sentencing table to be included within the guidelines with tougher penalties for repeat offenders. We are disappointed that the Sentencing Council’s new guidelines do not distinguish between repeat and first time offenders.

“These guidelines’ new approach to assessing harm will help magistrates to make informed decisions about the impact of shop theft on retailers. But for this to work, the police have to take a strong interest in prosecuting shop thieves and the courts have to be willing to take on these cases. Far too often shop theft is ignored or not taken seriously, and this cannot continue.”