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A ‘crucial’ amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill that would make it an offence to assault a shop worker has been welcomed by independent retailers.

The amendment was tabled by Alex Norris, the shadow minister for policing earlier this week.

Responding, 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. We are glad to see Alex Norris table such a crucial amendment to the Criminal and Justice Bill and we call on MPs from all parties to support it.

“Shop workers have to deal with physical and verbal threats on a near daily basis. With no current effective deterrent, these attacks in our stores will continue and will continue to seriously affect the lives of ordinary, innocent people who are simply doing their jobs.”

In response to sharp rises in incidents of violence and abuse against retail workers, larger stores have rolled out more CTTV, offered shop workers body cameras and increased the number of security guards they employ.

Mr Dipoti said: “Security measures are expensive to buy and install. With tighter margins, smaller retailers are unable to follow suit.”

Last autumn, the Fed launched its Safe, Secure, Supported campaign calling for a £1,500 government grant to be made available to help smaller independents protect their stores, deter crimes from being committed and reduce the strain on local police forces.

Launching the campaign, Mr Dipoti said: “Shop theft is not victimless. It blights the lives of independent retailers on a daily basis and has significant implications for a store’s viability. I am sure that every Fed member has been affected by crime at some point, and, sadly, many incidents of shoplifting are becoming increasingly violent.

“With the cost-of-living crisis, we are seeing regular customers turning to shoplifting because they can’t afford to live.”

Mr Dipoti added: “The burden of crime prevention shouldn’t fall on retailers’ shoulders. Government intervention is crucial to safeguard retailers, particularly smaller shops.”

The Fed’s petition calling for government grants can be viewed at: Petition · Safe, Secure, Supported – Our Call for Support for Security Grants for Small Businesses · Change.org.

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