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Offensive Weapons Bill: Peers urged by Usdaw to support a protection for shopworkers amendment

Date: 25 January 2019 The Offensive Weapons Bill sets out criminal penalties for shopworkers and delivery drivers who allow sales of corrosive substances and knives to under-18s. The amendment backed by Usdaw will create an offence if the person attempting to buy these products abuses, threatens or assaults the retail worker who is enforcing the law.
Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis is urging Peers to support amendment 23 (see notes for editors) to the Offensive Weapons Bill. The Grand Committee Stage of the Bill is due to start on Monday in the House of Lords. The amendment, tabled by the Lords Kennedy and Paddick, provides legal protection for shopworkers enforcing the ban on selling corrosive substances and knives to under 18s.
 
Usdaw’s survey of shopworkers shows a 25% increase in violence, suggesting there are over 230 assaulted every day. Challenging shop thieves is a common trigger for violence and verbal abuse. The British Retail Consortium reported a doubling of violence against shop staff in their last annual Retail Crime Survey. The Association of Convenience Stores reported nearly a million thefts from UK convenience stores in 2017, which is a 65% increase on the previous year.
 
Usdaw’s call for legislation to protect shopworkers has been backed by the Co-op Group, the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores.
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “This is a much needed Bill that deserves support and we very much welcome it. However, the Bill refers to ‘the accused’ on 36 occasions and every time ‘the accused’ is either a shopworker or a delivery driver, not the person who is possibly buying a restricted item to use as a weapon.
 
“Recent Usdaw survey results show that one in six assaulted shopworkers did not report the attack, mainly because they don’t believe it will make any difference. This amendment will change that perception, because at the moment many retail staff think that age-restricted sales legislation is about prosecuting shopworkers and the Bill as drafted reinforces that.
 
“We need a better balance in the law. We do not believe that the existing offence of assault is enough in this circumstance; it is rarely used and difficult to prove in cases of verbal abuse and threats. A specific offence of obstructing a shopworker that is easily understood by retail employers, their staff, police, the judiciary, shoppers and most of all violent criminals is necessary.
 
“The biggest trigger for violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers is enforcing the law on age-restricted sales. 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.”
 
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.
 
Amendment 23: Lord Kennedy Of Southwark and Lord Paddick
After Clause 5. Insert the following new Clause—
“Offence of obstructing a seller in the exercise of their duties under section 1
(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.”
Member’s explanatory statement: This new Clause would create an offence for those who obstruct retail staff in performing their responsibilities under this Act.

For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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