Shoplifting laws in the dock

21 March, 2008

Advisory body recommends harsher penalties for thieves hitting small shops

Thieves who steal from small independent shops should be penalised more harshly than people who shoplift from bigger stores, the Sentencing Guidelines Council has recommended.

The council, an independent body set up to advise the courts, also proposes that members of organised shoplifting gangs who intimidate their victims or use

force should face jail sentences of up to four years.

But it also suggests

fines should be the starting point "for the first-time opportunist thief who steals on impulse".

The council argues that stealing from shops should be taken more seriously by courts if shoplifters target small independents, are already subject to a banning order or attempt to involve


It developed its recommendations based on advice from the Sentencing Advisory Panel, which involved the Association of Convenience Stores in its consultation.

Council member and magistrate Malathy Sitaram said: "Offences of theft from a shop is the category of theft that most often comes before the courts and amounts to a substantial element of magistrates' workloads.

"During the

panel's consultation many consultees made a strong case about the impact of shoplifting on small shopkeepers and the council has responded by stressing that offenders who target small independent retailers should face higher sentences.

"We have also emphasised that those who persist in stealing from a shop will face a community or custodial sentence."

ACS chief executive James Lowman welcomed the recommendations.

He said: "It is entirely right that the panel has rejected the irresponsible idea of removing the option of sending a shop thief to prison from magistrate's discretion. We welcome the victory of common sense."

In Brief

Blaze disrupts Booze R Us


fire which burnt away most of the roof at the Bradford headquarters of wine and beer wholesaler Booze R Us has disrupted trade, according to management .

A spokesman for Booze R Us said

the business would continue operating as best it could . He said: "We hope to get back to normal in two to three weeks." The blaze was started by a faulty heater, the company said.

Robbers wield iron bar

Police are hunting two men who stole cash and cigarettes from an off-licence in Cheshire after threatening staff with an iron bar. The incident happened on March 5 at Jack's store, Sunningdale Avenue, Widnes.

One of the men is described as white, 6ft 2in, in his early 20s and wearing a black hooded top and a black scarf over his face. The other man wore a black top with the hood pulled over his head and both spoke with local accents.

Sticker war kicks off

Durham police are using stickers to clamp down on shops and off-licences selling alcohol to under-18s. Bottles and cans are being marked with tamper-proof labels so officers can track alcohol confiscated from young drinkers back to the supplier. The Bottlewatch scheme is being piloted in Ferryhill, Chilton, West Cornforth and Spennymoor

and if

successful the labels could be attached to drinks

in off-licences across the region, according to police.

Jail for cigarette smugglers

Three counterfeit cigarette smugglers have been jailed for

more than 10 years at Liverpool Crown Court. Alfred Chapple and William McDermott, both from Liverpool, and Zahid Mohammed, of Manchester, were sentenced for their part in the conspiracy to smuggle

some 22 million illegal cigarettes into the UK from Greece, Cyprus and China between Feb 2006 and Jan 2007. Chapple was sentenced to five years for his lead role in the conspiracy, McDermott received four years and Mohammed was jailed for 21 months. Total UK duty and tax evaded was over £4 million, according to

Revenue & Customs.

Alcohol sales banned at shop

A Blackpool drinks shop has been banned from selling alcohol for two months after it failed three test purchases in just under four months. On one occasion a

worker at the HN

Off-licence on Queens Square told a 15-year-old test purchaser to "go outside and check there are no police". Ayoub Mahdavieh, who was the premises licence holder at the time, admitted he had not been on the premises when alcohol was being sold because he also worked as a bus driver.

Off-licence owners in fear

A county councillor in Dorset has claimed off-licence staff knowingly serve under-age customers because they are frightened to challenge them. Councillor Betty Fox-Hodges told a meeting that off-licence owners and employees fear for their safety or the security of their premises.

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