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Chronicle Live
Emma Munbodh & Samuel Jones

New laws introduced affecting shoppers in big name stores including Primark, Asda and Morrisons

New laws have been introduced that will affect shoppers in big name stores including Aldi, Tesco, Lidl, M&S and Sainsbury's.

Tougher punishments will be in place for anyone who breaks the rules, with the most serious cases potentially resulting in a prison sentence, the Manchester Evening News reports.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act has seen tougher potential sentences introduced for cases where customers attack shop workers.

Read more: Tesco shoppers hit out at 'crazy' price differences for Clubcard holders

It follows a rise in disgusting abuse over the pandemic and it now means abusing a shop worker is an aggravated offence.

Figures from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) 2022 Crime Report showed levels of abuse reached highs over the Covid pandemic and in the past year, 89% of staff working in convenience stores alone have faced abuse in their job.

Shockingly, more than 35,000 incidents of violence have taken place, with over 16,000 incidents including the use of a weapon.

Polling conducted by the ACS also revealed that more than a third of consumers had witnessed violence and abuse against shop workers.

“We strongly welcome the introduction of this act, which the retail sector has been calling for over a number of years,” said ACS CEO James Lowman. “It’s essential that the penalties for attacking a shop worker serve as an effective deterrent.

“Introducing tougher sentences for those who attack people providing a service to the public, including shop workers, marks a significant step forward, but it does not solve the problem by itself. We need to ensure that abuse is not seen as part of the job and that all incidents are reported, and in response, Police and Crime Commissioners must prioritise crimes committed against retailers and their colleagues. We must also put the right interventions in place to stop those with substance and alcohol dependencies from reoffending.”

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents national president Narinder Randhawa said: “Attacks against store owners and their staff have been increasing for a number of years, so I am pleased that we are now being given the same protection in law as other frontline workers. Being attacked verbally or physically while just going about your daily business should not be tolerated and seen as part of the job.

"The important thing now is that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service work together to ensure this new law is an effective deterrent and not just a piece of paper. It’s essential that retailers report all incidents to highlight the scale of the problem, and the police response has to improve if retail crime is to be tackled head on.”

An Asda store. The laws will apply in many big name stores. (PA)

Among the reasons for a spike in abuse included demands to encourage mask-wearing and maintain social distancing rules. Co-op retail boss Jo Whitfield was one of the first chains to speak out after a spike in complaints from staff.

The Co-op said it had recorded a 140% surge in criminal activity, with more than 200,000 of those cases including violent or non-violent shoplifting. Ms Whitfield said: "Colleagues have been terrorised with axes and physically punched. Another was hospitalised with a punctured lung and broken ribs after being attacked by three shoplifters over a £10 bottle of spirits. The problem is not a Co-op one, or a retailer one – it is a societal one."

Iceland recorded 650 instances of verbal abuse and 30 of physical assault arising from customers' refusals to comply with Covid rules during the same period.

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