Usdaw disappointed by Government failure to properly protect shop and bar workers selling alcohol

Date: 28 March 2014 Shopworkers trade union leader John Hannett is disappointed that the Government yesterday turned their backs on thousands of workers assaulted in the course of their duties every year.

Yesterday the Government blocked an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, promoted by Dan Jarvis MP, which would have introduced a specific offence of assaulting a worker selling alcohol, making such an assault an offence in its own right. The amendment was considered at the Bill’s House of Commons committee stage and was defeated by 10 votes to 5.

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: ‘We were very disappointed to see Tory and Liberal MPs combining to block Labour’s amendment to provide stiffer sentences for those who assault workers selling alcohol. 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. 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, shop and bar workers 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.

‘Yesterday the Government offered only warm words and sympathy for workers who put themselves on the frontline every day, but that is 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 landlord in Bolton refused to serve a young man who he knew to be under-age.  When he took his dogs out for a walk that night, the youth beat him up, kicking his face while he was on the ground, causing extensive cuts and bruising.  The police arrested him, but let him off the next day with a caution.

A shopworker in Quedgeley 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.

At a Plymouth night club a doorman was hit with an empty champagne bottle by a customer wanting to be served more alcohol.  He was described to the Court as having gone “berserk” and striking the doorman with the empty bottle. Whilst the judge agreed that using a bottle, as a weapon passed the custodial threshold, the assailant was given a suspended sentence.

Amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

New Clause 11 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill insert the following new Clause—

Assault on workers selling alcohol

(1)       A person who assaults a worker who is required to enforce the Licensing Act 2003—

in the course of that worker’s employment, or

by reason of that worker’s employment,

commits an offence.

(2)       No offence is committed—

under subsection (1)(a) unless the person who assaults knows, or ought to know, that the worker is acting in the course of the worker’s employment and is enforcing the 2003 Act;

under subsection (1)(b) unless the assault is motivated, in whole or in part, by malice towards the worker by reason of the worker’s employment and their enforcement of the 2003 Act.

(3)       In this section—

'worker selling alcohol' means a person whose employment involves them selling alcohol under the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003.

'employment' in this context means any paid or unpaid work whether under contract, apprenticeship, or otherwise.

(4)       Evidence from a single source is sufficient evidence to establish for the purpose of subsection (1) whether a person is a worker.

(5)       A person guilty of an offence under this Act is liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

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

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