Attacking shop workers should become a specific criminal offence, MPs are told today.
Three in five store staff have suffered verbal or physical abuse at work, according to a recent survey.
Industry chiefs have repeatedly called for a crackdown on yobs who target employees behind tills, in the aisles or on shop floors.
As Parliament returns from recess, Labour MP Gareth Thomas will today publish an early day motion urging the Commons to support a new law aimed at preventing assaults.
He told the Mirror: “A new standalone offence of assaulting a public-facing worker would deliver a stronger, clearer route to getting thugs who attack shop staff brought to justice.
“It would help to make it easier for the police and prosecutors to crackdown on this growing area of criminality.
“Many other steps are needed too such as more support to get people onto drug and alcohol treatment orders.
“More investment is needed in youth services to help create alternatives to antisocial behaviour which can lead all too easily into criminal activity – and above all we need experienced police officers able to respond quickly when the alarm is sounded.”
The early day motion put forward by Mr Thomas says the Commons “deplores the rise in verbal and physical abuse of shop workers” and calls on ministers “to introduce measures to tackle this issue, including legislation to make assaulting a public facing worker a standalone offence”.
The move “would provide not only a clear deterrent to those thinking of assaulting shop workers but also clear routes to prosecution for the police and courts dealing with this growing problem”, it adds.
The call was welcomed by shop workers’ union Usdaw,
General secretary Paddy Lillis said: “Usdaw’s research has shown that around 400 shop workers are assaulted every day.
“In the face of an epidemic of violence against shop staff, there is an ever pressing need for Government action.
“All too often the criminals feel they can get away with assaulting staff and are not punished.
“That’s why we need Government action to help protect staff through the creation of a simple stand-alone offence that is widely-recognised and understood by the public, police, the judiciary and, most importantly, criminals.”
British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The thousands of attacks on retail workers are not merely statistics, they represent real people who needlessly bear the cost of retail crime.
“From abuse, to threats, to violence, those affected carry those experiences with them for a lifetime.
“MPs should support the early day motion to make assaults on retail workers a standalone offence because no-one should have to go to work fearing violence or threats.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Everyone has the right to feel safe at work and we are making our communities safer by recruiting 20,000 extra police officers over the next three years.
“We recognise the damaging impact that violence and abuse towards shop workers, which is why we will be publishing our response to our recent ‘call for evidence’ on this issue.”
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