Hundreds report retail crime in store

Retailers making use of new legal protections

Calling out crime: Dr John Lee (left) and SGF chief executive Pete Cheema.

ALMOST 300 incidents of abuse against shop staff have been reported to police since a new law protecting retail workers came into force on 24 August last year.

Under the Protection of Workers Act, it is now a specific offence to assault, threaten or abuse a shopworker.

Figures from the Scottish Business Resilience centre, covering 24 August to 30 November 2021, revealed 285 incidents of threats and abuse were reported to Police Scotland over the period.

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation, which actively supported Daniel Johnson MSP’s campaign to introduce the Protection of Workers Act, has been urging retailers to report every incident of crime.

Since the law came into force, SGF has been working to raise awareness among retailers and their staff through its ‘Don’t Put Up With It’ campaign.

Dr John Lee, head of policy at SGF, said the message is “getting out loud and clear” that threats and abuse are unacceptable, and that “those responsible will be punished”.

He said: “While every incident is one too many, the statistics show that the Protection of Workers Act is effective, is much needed and that store owners and their staff are unafraid to use it.

“What’s more, it’s reassuring to see how seriously Police Scotland are treating the complaints made, with every incident reported either having been investigated or under active investigation. This gives retailers confidence that these crimes are being taken seriously.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe at work. Far too many retail workers, however, are left terrified by the trouble they are forced to deal with. No-one should have to put up with becoming a victim of crime simply for doing their job.

“This law proves that abusing and threatening shop staff will not be tolerated. Levels of awareness among retailers are clearly high. We are grateful for the support and encourage retailers to continue reporting every crime recorded in their shops. Don’t put up with it.”

• The Protection of Workers Act was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament in 2021. The Act was introduced as a private member bill by Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, with support from SGF and other trade associations and unions.

The Protection of Workers Act makes assaulting, threatening, abusing, obstructing or hindering a shopworker a specific criminal offence.

Under the new Act, abusing or assaulting staff during the sale of an age-restricted item could also be charged as an aggravation – with the potential for more severe sentencing.