Shopworkers need protection and Government sentencing guidelines don’t go far enough says Usdaw

Date: 03 April 2014 Shopworkers trade union leader John Hannett has welcomed the Sentencing Council consultation on their guidelines, but warns that simply focussing on shop theft incidents is not enough to prevent 300 assaults on shopworkers every day.

Today, the Sentencing Council has announced proposals for a new sentencing guideline for theft offences. The draft guideline covers a wide variety of types of theft such as pick-pocketing, shop theft, handling stolen goods, car theft, leaving a restaurant or petrol station without paying and stealing by employees or care workers

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: 'Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence threats and abuse against shopworkers and we have supported Labour’s attempts to provide stiffer sentences for those who assault workers, only to be disappointed that the Government voted them down.

'So we welcome this consultation on sentencing guidelines for theft, because there is a real need to address the scourge of violence against workers and I am concerned that the attackers are getting away with relatively lenient sentences. However, simply looking at theft alone does not address the wider issue of assaults on shopworkers, which can be caused by a variety circumstances.

'Parliament expects workers to enforce and police the laws they pass, but they have failed to provide the additional protection needed to help keep those workers safe. Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to take on a pseudo police officer role and enforce the law. Under the licensing laws they have to prevent under-age purchases and refuse sales to customers who have already had too much to drink. This can often lead to violence, threats and abuse against the worker. Our own survey revealed that more than 300 shopworkers a day are violently attacked whilst doing their job and many of those incidents involved the sale of alcohol.

'The Government has offered only warm words and sympathy for workers who put themselves on the frontline every day and these new guidelines are not enough. Our members play an important role in helping to keep communities safe by enforcing licensing laws, so they deserve proper protection.

'We will continue to campaign for a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out and to give a clear message, that assaulting workers is totally unacceptable.'

Notes for editors:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 431,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last 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.

Examples of lenient sentences given to assailants of workers selling alcohol

A shopworker working at a till refused to serve a customer alcohol.  The customer swore and shouted at her and she called her manager for assistance.  The store manager agreed the customer was too drunk to serve and asked the customer to leave the shop.  He refused to leave.  Whilst staff were trying to escort him out of the shop he kicked and punched 3 members of staff.  He also spat in the face of the store manager.  The police were called and he was given a police caution.

A thug, given a suspended sentence for assault, who goes out to celebrate his 'lenient' sentence and launches a vile racist attack on a woman shopworker, assaults her in front of her children by pulling out chunks of her hair and walks free from court again.

A man grabbed a shopworker and pushed him back against a window. He then walked off shouting that he was going to ‘get him’. In court he was told his suspended sentence for a previous offence would not be activated.

A shopworker was punched on the jaw when she asked a persistent shoplifter to leave, because they’d been barred from the store. The shopworker gave a statement and the police saw the CCTV footage. The attacker was arrested but nothing more has happened.

Sentencing Council publishes draft of new guideline for sentencing thieves: http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/media/1014.htm

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

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers