Home Office minister agrees to meeting to discuss violence against retail workers

Junior minister, Victoria Atkins, has agreed to attend a meeting to discuss violence against retailers and shopworkers.

The meeting announcement followed amendments tabled to the Offence Weapons Bill by David Hanson MP. The proposed amendments included tougher sanctions for attacks on shopworkers who are “intentionally obstructed” in exercising their duties. This would include enforcement of age restrictions on products such as alcohol and tabaco.

Victoria Atkins, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, commented that “shopworkers [should] feel protected, as well as being protected, by the law”. She then proceeded to invite key players in the “retail arena” to the table to discuss the issues raised in further detail.

Following the meeting offer, David Hanson MP agreed to withdraw the amendment “on the understanding that an amendment to the Bill can be brought to the House of Lords.”

David added that he “hope[s to make] progress on this key issue that impacts on the lives of so many retail staff, this issue is not going away.”

The ammendements have been supported by trade bodies like ACS and BRC, the shopworkers union Usdaw, the Co-op party and the Co-op Group.

James Lowman, chief executive of ACS commented that “the government relies on retailers and store colleagues to uphold the law, so we want back up from police and the criminal justice system to send a clear message that violence and verbal abuse is not acceptable and will be acted on.”

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of Usdaw stated that “we need a better balance in the law. The existing offence of common assault is not enough, because it is rarely used and difficult to prove in cases of verbal abuse and threats.”