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UK retailers call for widespread adoption of Scottish retail protection laws

By Rachel Douglass


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UK Retail Credits: McArthurGlen

Following a significant uptick in retail theft and crime, UK retailers are now calling on the rest of the region to more widely adopt laws to protect retail workers akin to those that have already been put into place in Scotland.

The Protection of Workers Act was brought into force by Daniel Johnson, of Scottish Labour, and created a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker that was backed unanimously by Scottish MPs.

Figures compiled for the Guardian by Police Scotland revealed the rates of assaults and abusive behaviour against retail workers since the legislation was put into place in August 2021, allowing for an overview of the scale of such an issue.

From 2023 running up to the end of November, there were 2,233 reported assaults, an increase of 50 percent on the previous year, alongside 2,582 reports of threatening or abusive behaviour, at another 50 percent rise.

In light of the act already appearing to have an effect, retailers across the UK are now hoping a similar legislation will be brought in by the Westminster parliament to address other areas in the region.

BRC and Usdaw demand standalone offence

Speaking to the media outlet, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that the Scottish figures showed a standalone offence was “clearly working”.

While the organisation was previously able to push through amendments to certain acts regarding safety, there is evidence of frustration surrounding the lack of collected data regarding the use of such offence.

Despite retailers already investing in various anti-crime measures, assistant director of regulatory affairs at the consortium, Graham Wynn, said a separate offence would mean tougher sentences, better deterrence and the recording of data regarding these incidents.

A similar call has also been made by union Usdaw, which argued a standalone offence would help address the “major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers”.

Paddy Lillis, the union’s general secretary, said: “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime … Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers. We are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, this should never be part of the job.”

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