The minister of state for justice, Lord Faulks, has agreed to a meeting to discuss the protection of workers who sell alcohol after a debate on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.
The debate concerned an amendment that would have given extra legal protection to staff who are assaulted while selling alcohol by creating a separate summary offence on a worker enforcing the provision of the Licensing Act for the sale of alcohol.
For those found guilty of the offence prosecuted summarily it would mean up to six months in prison and or a fine up to a maximum of £5,000. For those convicted on indictment in the Crown Court, it would mean up to two years in prison and or an unlimited fine.
During the debate, the Labour peer Lord Foulkes said: “At present, as the assault of workers who sell alcohol usually falls into the category of common assault, with the relatively lenient punishments on offer, it results in the Crown Prosecution Service deciding that it is not worth prosecuting.
“This has been the experience of a range of groups which are supporting my amendment: USDAW [Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers]; National Pubwatch; the Wine and Spirit Trade Association; the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group, whose members include almost all major supermarkets; and the Association of Convenience Stores.”
Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers and their staff carry out an important role in preventing young people accessing alcohol, and they should not be put at risk. We are pleased that this issue has been raised in the Lords, and are keen to meet with the minister of state to discuss the protection of workers selling alcohol further.”
Earlier this month, a joint letter calling for a change in the law was published in the Sunday Telegraph and signed by:
• James Lowman - chief executive, Association of Convenience Stores;
• John Hannett - general secretary, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers;
• Stephen Baker - chairman, National Pubwatch;
• Miles Beale - chief executive, Wine and Spirit Trade Association;
• Nick Grant - Retail of Alcohol Standards Group.
As a result of the debate, the amendment to the Bill was withdrawn.