Legislation won't solve shoplifting crisis without tougher action from cops, former policing minister tells LBC

3 October 2023, 07:01

Kit Malthouse called for tougher police action on shoplifters
Kit Malthouse called for tougher police action on shoplifters. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Legislation will not be enough to solve a rise in shoplifting without tougher police action, the former policing minister has told LBC.

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Speaking to LBC at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Kit Malthouse said the "House of Commons can legislate all it wants" but "if there’s no action on the ground on a daily basis, it won’t make much difference".

It comes amid warnings from retail bosses that violent criminals are “emptying stores”, leaving shop staff in danger thanks to inadequate legal protections.

Mr Malthouse, who served as Policing Minister under Boris Johnson, said a move could be made to make assaulting shop staff an aggravated assault, but called for more "assertive police action".

Former Policing Minister Kit Malthouse
Former Policing Minister Kit Malthouse. Picture: Getty

"We’ve looked at the notion of an aggravated offence…I think there’s a lot of merit in it given the situation we face," he told LBC.

“But in the end, legislation doesn’t solve the problem on its own. What we need is assertive police action.”

Read More: Shopworkers need more protection: Priti Patel calls for police crackdown after surge in thefts from shops

Read More: Supermarket forced to display empty decoy Ferrero Rocher chocolate boxes in bid to deter shoplifting gangs

The heads of 90 retail giants - which include high street mainstays Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Boots - have written to the government demanding action following soaring levels of retail crime.

Priti Patel speaks to Nick Ferrari on theft from shops

He added: “We need to look at who is actually committing these crimes. So we know that the vast majority…are committed by drug addicts. People who are seeking this stuff to make money to feed some sort of habit.”

“In the end, the House of Commons can pass all the legislation it wants, if there’s no action on the ground on a daily basis, it won’t make much difference.”

It comes after the former Home Secretary Priti Patel called on police chiefs to 'use their powers' to protect shop workers following a surge in thefts from stores.

Ms Patel told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "The police do have a lot of powers.

"They have more resources now. They have more police officers and they should be absolutely targeting this."

Last month Iceland boss Richard Walker has told LBC that serious incidents against his staff had never been higher.

Previously he told Nick that raiders are organising themselves into shoplifting gangs as the crime becoming increasingly organised and deadly.

Iceland boss on shoplifting

"This is no longer about the petty theft - this is about serious violence against our store colleagues by shoplifters which sadly is becoming more and more of an occurrence,"Walker said.

"Weapons deployed to reinforce these threats are things like knives, screwdrivers, hammers, hypodermic needles."No-one should have to go through this."

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