Co-op asks MPs to back new offence of assaulting shopworkers as Crime Bill debated

04 July 2021

Co-op is asking for MPs to back three amendments to the Governments new Crime Bill to provide greater protection for frontline shopworkers in the face of unprecedented levels of abuse and violence.

__- Parliament set to debate three amendments to its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill

__- Amendments debated today (Monday, 5 July) would deliver greater protection for all frontline shopworkers ____

Co-op is asking for MPs to back three amendments to the Governments new Crime Bill to provide greater protection for frontline shopworkers in the face of unprecedented levels of abuse and violence.

Set for debate in Parliament today (Monday 5 July), three amendments to The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill have been tabled which will send a clear message that assaults and abuse against shopworkers as they go about their job are unacceptable.

If backed, the Bill will include new offences which mean that someone assaulting, threatening and abusing a retail worker who is doing their job will be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment, a fine, or both. As too will an assault committed because the shopworker is applying a statutory age-restriction, by asking for proof of age.

Co-op has campaigned for greater protection for shopworkers, and in Scotland, the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) Act became law in February 2021 following a unanimous vote.

In the first quarter of 2021, Co-op saw almost 400 incidents where weapons have been used against shopworkers, with more than one-in-two (56%) of those involving either sharp implements, such as a syringe or knife or, a bottle.

Last year (2020) Co-op saw a 76% increase in recorded anti-social behaviour and verbal abuse compared to 2019 – with more than 100 incidents every day. Over the last five years (since 2016) there has been a 35-fold increase in this type of incident.

Co-op also saw a near 10% uplift in violent incidents in 2020 compared with 2019, which now means that assaults and attacks on its frontline shopworkers has increased by more than 650% over the same five-year period.

Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food CEO, said: “No one should have to go to work and face these unprecedented levels of violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour. Frontline workers have been coughed on, spat at and threatened with knives and syringes - it is not acceptable and, should not be part of the job. We welcomed the publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee Report on retail violence - it too calls for a new criminal offence which would send a powerful and long overdue message that assaults on retail workers will not be tolerated, and today there is a clear opportunity for MP’s to protect shopworkers in their communities by backing the amendment to the Government’s Crime (PCSC) Bill.”

Paul Gerrard, Co-op’s Campaigns and Public Affairs Director - who gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in support of the amendments, said: “Frontline workers have been unsung heroes throughout the pandemic, and yet there is a minority of people who think it ok to assault, abuse and maim them. It is great to see the appetite across the political spectrum to support these new clauses, which would provide the protection that frontline shopworkers need and, deserve. By backing these amendments to the Government’s Crime (PCSC) Bill there is, today, an opportunity for MP’s to protect shopworkers in their communities – it will send out a loud and clear message that criminal behaviour in our communities will not be tolerated, and importantly lets shopworkers know that they have been listened to and, taken seriously.”

In May, Co-op CEO Jo Whitfield wrote to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson leading a coalition of more than 30 other major retailers and industry bodies, asking Government to give English and Welsh retail staff greater protection in the workplace. Co-op also backed a joint CEO letter sent by the British Retail Consortium this month (July) ahead of today’s (Monday, 5 July) debate in Parliament.

Co-op has invested more than £140m in the latest technology to keep colleagues safer and to deter violence and abuse including: the latest CCTV; communication headsets for all frontline colleagues; SmartWater spray for security officers to deploy in the most extreme incidents; fog cannons in kiosk areas and, body-worn cameras which can send real time audio and visual footage to a security operation centre at the touch of a button.

Further information:
Andrew Torr
Co-op Press Office
M: 07702505551
E: andrew.torr@coop.co.uk

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