Shoplifting laws in the dock

25 March, 2008

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 children.

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


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.”

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