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Policy for handling convicted retail criminals to be reviewed.

British Retail Consortium : 26 June, 2007  (Technical Article)
The Government is preparing a review of sentencing policy with problems of prison overcrowding and a continuing rise in retail crime.
As the Government prepares to release thousands of prisoners early to ease prison overcrowding, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is welcoming an adjournment debate on sentencing policy and retail crime to be held tomorrow (Wednesday).

The BRC says, despite official crime levels falling, offences aimed at retailers have risen dramatically. BRC figures show recorded incidents of shop theft up 70 per cent since 2000 with the actual number of offences likely to be seven to ten million a year.

Retailers fear the early release plan will leave retail crime victims subject to continued abuse by persistent offenders.

The debate, secured by Labour M.P. Ann Coffey, follows an Early Day Motion signed by 68 MPs backing the BRC's concern over proposals to remove or severely curtail jail sentences for retail crime.

The MPs agreed that the further weakening of penalties proposed by the Sentencing Advisory Panel would lead to an increase in retail crime and create the perception that theft from shops is acceptable. They are calling on the Government to develop and implement a strategy aimed specifically at combating retail crime.

British Retail Consortium Director General Kevin Hawkins said: "This debate is a welcome opportunity to stress to MPs that thieves increasingly believe they can act with impunity in shops. More and more shop staff are suffering abuse and violence, particularly when trying to stop shoplifters.

"Shopworkers should not have to pay the price for the Government's failure to plan prison capacity. Jail is not a panacea for retail crime but it must remain as the ultimate penalty for violent and persistent offenders."

The BRC is raising specific concerns about:.

* Proposals to remove or cap custodial sentences for shop theft, for even the most persistent offenders.

* Plans to make more widespread use of Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs or fixed penalties), extending them to repeat offenders and those who have stolen more than the current limit of £200 worth of goods.
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