The Co-op is calling on forecourt retailers to join its colleagues in asking their MP to support a Bill’s amendment that would make attacking a shop worker a specific crime.

It believes that by making attacking shop staff an offence in its own right, courts will have more power to match the punishment to a crime that can have life-changing consequences to physical and mental health. The initiative is supported by the PRA, ACS and British Retail Consortium.

The amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which was tabled by Shadow Minister for Policing, Alex Norris MP, last month, will be debated in the House of Commons soon. The Co-op, which supplied the above video of an incident at one of its stores, wants to ensure support from as many MPs as possible, after reporting physical attacks against its staff up 34% last year.

A report published by the retailer today and written by professor of criminology at City, University of London, Emmeline Taylor, sets out a 10-point plan focused on “turning the tide on prolific offenders”. It calls for:

- Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to commit to developing a strategy to tackle prolific retail crime in their police and crime plans

- A review of the Retail Crime Action Plan to include measurable key performance indicators (KPIs)

- The Introduction of a ‘retail flag’ to identify in the Police National Database (PND) and criminal justice case management systems when a crime has taken place in a retail setting

- A campaign to target the stolen goods market

- The introduction of specialist ‘Intensive Supervision Courts’ for retail crime

- A presumption against custodial sentences of less than six months for assaults on retail workers

- The introduction of a standalone offence for the protection of retail workers

- A repeal of section 176 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014

- Regulation of e-commerce sites and online marketplaces

- The appointment of an Independent Advisor/Oversight Board

The Co-op says despite spending over £200m on preventative measures in recent years to make its stores and communities safer, its staff suffered more than a third of a million incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour in 2023, up 44% on the year before – amounting to almost 1,000 incidents every day across its 2,400 stores.  

It says new data reveals police response rates have been improving since the introduction of the Retail Crime Action Plan last October. It says police are now more likely to attend a situation where its undercover security guards detain criminals, with the non-attendance rate having reduced from 79% of occasions to 38% at its sites.

Matt Hood, managing director at Co-op Food, says often prolific offenders persistently steal large volumes of products from Co-op shops daily to fund addictions, which makes the situation volatile and dangerous. ”It is imperative MPs don’t turn their backs on shopworkers, and vote through the amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to give my colleagues the protection they deserve,” he says.

The Co-op announced in 2022 that it had agreed to sell its petrol forecourt business to Asda. However, it still has 11 Co-op franchise stores operating on forecourts.