Shoplifters to face instant £80 fines

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The Independent Online

Shoplifters and petty criminals who steal groceries or sweets will face on-the-spot fines under new measures due to be announced by the Government tomorrow.

Police will be encouraged to punish thieves and vandals with £80 fines in an extension of fixed-penalty notices, which are already being used for litter louts and graffiti yobs.

The initiative is part of a drive by ministers to impose an additional 50,000 on-the-spot fines on offenders every year by 2007. The measures have been criticised as an attempt to widen the criminal justice net.

However, retailers and police have lodged objections to the proposals, arguing that fining shoplifters and vandals would effectively decriminalise shoplifting and allow serious offenders to escape without a criminal record.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents shopkeepers, has held several meetings with ministers who are understood to have substantially reduced the original threshold at which the fines could be imposed.

It is understood that the Home Office has revised its original plan to impose the £80 fine on offenders stealing goods worth up to £200 and on vandals causing less than £500 damage. The fine is thought more likely to apply to lesser offences for lower value goods.

The BRC said it welcomed the new fines although it still had concerns that the measures were too lenient.

Norman Brennan, from the Victims of Crime Trust, said that this new measure would have little impact on crime. "This is yet another announcement from a Government which has yet to introduce a crime initiative that works," said Mr Brennan.