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News

BRC concerned over proposals for early release for convicted criminals.

British Retail Consortium : 19 June, 2007  (Technical Article)
Proposed early release of non-violent offenders to combat overcrowding in Britain's jails raises concerns over potential rise in retail crime.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is seriously concerned at indications the Government plans to snub victims and set convicted criminals free in order to ease overcrowding in prisons.

The Ministry of Justice is said to be about to free-up prison capacity by releasing thousands of non-violent offenders early. Those reportedly in the frame for early release include criminals convicted of theft and fraud, two of the most significant forms of crime carried out against retailers at a cost to the industry of more than £2.1bn each year.

The BRC says allowing the small proportion of extremely persistent shoplifters whose crimes have been deemed sufficient to warrant a custodial sentence to walk free early will further undermine the Government's, already weak, response to retail crime.

BRC Director General Kevin Hawkins said: "Barely one in 400 shop crimes results in someone going to jail, usually for only a matter of months. Only the most serious, persistent offenders are locked up and now even that punishment is going to be weakened. Over the past year we have had to contend with numerous attempts to water-down penalties for criminals caught stealing from shops. It is incredibly disheartening for the victims.

"The Government seems to be pushing the line that non-violent crime is a petty nuisance which can be dealt with by a slap on the wrist. The victims take a very different view. Shops targeted week in week out are being abandoned by the law. Sometimes the only break comes when a persistent offender is sent to prison.

"Retailers and the public should not be paying the penalty for the Government's failure to plan prison capacity."

The latest moves follow numerous attempts by various advisory bodies and the Government to water down penalties for retail crime. These include a proposal to change sentencing guidelines so that it would be all but impossible to send even the most persistent shoplifter to prison unless they were violent during a theft. There are also proposals to expand the use of on-the-spot fines so that they can be applied to repeat offenders.

Removing prison as a deterrent gives persistent offenders the green-light to go on stealing. Fixed penalty fines are also wholly inappropriate for repeat offenders as the value of the fine is considerably less than the average value of the goods stolen (£150) and fines are often not paid.
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