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Offensive Weapons Bill lets off those illegally trying to buy knives and acid, but can criminalise retail staff says Usdaw

Date: 17 October 2018 The Offensive Weapons Bill sets out criminal penalties for shopworkers and delivery drivers who complete sales of corrosive substances and knives to under-18s. However there is no penalty for the person attempting to illegally buy these age-restricted products, even if they abuse or threaten the retail worker.
Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis has joined with retailers, staff and the shopping public to call on the Government to support a protection for shopworkers amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill, tabled by David Hanson MP, which provides legal protection for shopworkers enforcing the ban on selling corrosive substances and knives to under-18s. The Bill was due to complete its passage in the House of Commons on Monday, but was withdrawn at the last minute.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “This is a much needed Bill that deserves support and we very much welcome it, but on 36 occasions it refers to a shopworker or delivery driver as ‘the accused’; yet there are no penalties on those attempting to make an illegal purchase, even if they are violent or abusive.
“Retail workers will play a vital role policing this new law, as they already do on the sale of alcohol and other age-restricted products; however they are offered no additional protection under the law and retail staff can be treated like criminals if a mistake is made at the point of sale.
“We hope that the Government withdrew the Bill on Monday to reconsider the unbalanced approach they’ve taken, with the entire burden of responsibility falling on retail staff. Retail employers, the shopping public and the shopworkers’ trade union agree that a new measure to protect staff is a fair and necessary addition to this Bill and we urge the Government to support it when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.
“Shopworkers are on the frontline of helping to keep our communities safe. Their role should be valued, they deserve our respect, but most of all they deserve the protection of the law.”
The protection of shopworkers amendment is supported by the Co-op Group, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), all seeking Government action to tackle the growing problems of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers. Usdaw’s survey shows that there are over 260 violent attacks against shopworkers every day.
A Populus poll commissioned by the Co-operative Party showed that 85% of voters agree that: “The government owes a duty of care to shopworkers who enforce important laws restricting the sale of certain items like alcohol, acid and knives.” They also believe that the best way to deliver this is with: “A tough new law to increase criminal sentences for anyone convicted of using threats or violence against a shopworker.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with around 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 28% over the decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food
manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
Offensive Weapons Bill: New Clause 1 - Protection for retail staff
To move the following Clause—
(1) A person (“the purchaser”) commits an offence if they intentionally obstruct a
person (“the seller”) in the exercise of their duties under section 1 of this Act.
(2) In this section, “intentionally obstruct” includes, but is not limited to, a person
acting in a threatening manner.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary
conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.
Sponsoring MPs: David Hanson, Ruth George, Vernon Coaker, Kate Green, Luciana Berger, Mr Ben Bradshaw, Ian Murray, Gareth Thomas and Ann Coffey.
Usdaw’s latest survey results show that two-thirds of shopworkers were verbally abused last year, 42% were threatened and there were over 265 assaults every day. This represents a 25% increase in abuse and assaults and threats are up by 38%.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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