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Independent retailers have welcomed today’s (Wednesday’s) announcement from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that assaulting a shopworker is to be made a separate offence.

Muntazir Dipoti, the National President of the Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed), said: “We have been lobbying the government for years for better protection for those who work in shops, for any form of attacks on shop workers to be taken more seriously and for the penalties for those who commit such crimes to be more stringent.”

Mr Dipoti continued: “We campaigned successfully in Scotland for the establishment of a standalone offence for those who abuse or use violence against retail workers. Last year we were pleased to see an amendment tabled to the Criminal and Justice Bill which would have made assaulting retail workers a separate offence and we had called on MPs of all parties to support it. It was of huge disappointment when this fell through.

“Shop workers have to deal with physical and verbal threats on a near daily basis. This, along with unprecedented levels of shop theft, seriously affects the lives of ordinary, innocent people who are simply doing their jobs.

“Having campaigned for so long, Fed members are pleased that tackling retail crime is to be finally given the energy and priority it deserves.”

Announcing a three-step plan to tackling retail crime, the Prime Minister said that anyone assaulting a retail worker will face six months in jail or an unlimited fine. Repeat offenders could also be forced to wear an electronic tag, as could consistent shoplifters. More would be done to pioneer new technology to tackle retail crime, with a prize for innovators who come forward with new crime prevention systems, particularly targeted at smaller retailers.

Mr Sunak said: “I am sending a message to those criminals – whether they are serious organised criminal gangs, repeat offenders or opportunistic thieves – who think they can get away with stealing from these local businesses or abusing shopworkers, enough is enough.

“Our local shops are the lifeblood of our communities, and they must be free to trade without the threat of crime or abuse.”

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