Keir Starmer puts shoplifters ‘on notice’ in crackdown on epidemic of thefts and assaults on retail workers

The Labour leader has vowed to reverse the ‘Shoplifter’s Charter,’ boost police presence, and introduce new legislation to protect retail workers as shoplifting cases hit record levels across Britain.”

Zoe Grunewald
Tuesday 30 April 2024 14:42 BST
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has defended his deputy Angela Rayner as she has come under scrutiny for her tax affairs

Labour has announced a crackdown on shoplifting and assaults of retail workers as new analysis reveals that a quarter of a million shoplifters got away scot-free last year.

Keir Starmer has announced that his government would reverse the Tory ‘Shoplifter’s Charter’ - a rule that means shoplifting of goods under £200 isn’t investigated - and has committed to boosting police numbers in a bid to lower crime as incidents of shoplifting hits record levels across Britain.

Analysis of newly released Home Office statistics by Labour found that over 248,000 shoplifting cases were closed without a suspect being found, or where further action was considered not to be in the public interest.

At a speech today at the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers’s (Usdaw) annual conference, Sir Keir said he’s putting shoplifters “on notice”.

Addressing the conference, the Labour leader said: “You might get away with this under a weak Tory government. But if Labour takes power, we won’t stand by while crime takes over our streets.”

The Labour leader has made tackling crime one of his five missions, including introducing a new Community Policing Guarantee to crack down on shoplifting and antisocial behaviour in Britain’s town centres, with a surge in neighbourhood policing. Sir Keir says the mission is driven by his own values and has been informed by his experience as director for public prosecutions between 2008-13.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is visiting the USDAW conference today
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is visiting the USDAW conference today (PA Wire)

Labour say this ‘Shoplifter’s Charter’, coupled with hollowed-out neighbourhood policing, has left local businesses and retail workers at the “mercy of criminals”. Shoplifting has soared to record highs while assaults on shop workers have doubled.

New figures published last Thursday showed a 37 percent rise to 430,000 shoplifting offences last year – over 1,000 per day. Meanwhile, a recent Usdaw survey found that almost one in five shopworkers suffered a violent attack last year.

Sir Keir has now pledged an extra 13,000 neighbourhood police and to legislate to make assaulting and abusing shopworkers a specific criminal offence.

Sir Keir said: “Nobody in Britain should be in any doubt about the scale of the crime wave on our high streets at the moment. The epidemic levels of shoplifting and the persistent plague of antisocial behaviour.

“Some people call this type of crime ‘petty’. But they don’t work in your shop. They don’t walk in your shoes. Don’t see the damage this does to your community.”

Today’s announcement goes alongside a renewed pledge from the Labour party to a programme to strengthen workers’ rights across the country, which the party is calling the “biggest levelling-up of workers’ rights this country has seen for a generation”.

Sir Keir said “good employers” will have “nothing to fear from this new deal”, adding that good work is “not just a moral imperative. This is also an economic argument.”

Over 248,000 shoplifting cases were closed without a suspect being found last year, according to Labour analysis
Over 248,000 shoplifting cases were closed without a suspect being found last year, according to Labour analysis (Getty Images)

“Only the other day, a survey by the Chartered Management Institute found that 80 per cent of managers believe that strengthening workers’ rights is beneficial for productivity.”

The party’s new deal for workers will include strengthening the protections afforded to all workers by banning zero-hours contracts, ending fire and rehire and scrapping qualifying periods for basic rights, which leave working people waiting up to two years for basic protections.

Sir Keir has also recommitted to levelling-up Britain’s high streets as a crucial part of his mission for growth. He told the conference that rejuvenating the high streets is “an absolutely crucial part of that growth mission”, adding: “I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that doesn’t value and want a vibrant high street. When you ask someone how they feel their community is doing economically, nine times out of ten, they will tell you about their high street.

“You can’t reduce their value merely to profit or the products they sell. So, if we are ambitious about growth in every community, if we want an era of genuine national renewal. Then we must turn around the decline of Britain’s high streets.”

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