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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
Emma Munbodh & Katie Williams

Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Aldi, Sainsbury's: All UK supermarkets to follow new strict law

Strict new laws have been put in place around supermarkets across the UK for anyone shopping at ASDA, Aldi, Tesco, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Iceland.

The same goes for retail stores such as Primark, Home Bargains, B&M and TK Maxx.

New legislation has been passed in that could land any shopper flouting the rules facing tough punishment with the worst offenders even facing time in jail.

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Following Scotland's move to protect shop workers, the UK Government have now passed a similar law that introduces tougher penalties against customers who attack shop workers.

This comes after a rise in abuse was reported during the pandemic.

As The Mirror reports, The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act was given royal assent on 28 April. Under it, abuse against individuals who serve the public has become an aggravated offence.

Scotland's The Protection of Workers Act came into force in August 2021 and union leaders were urging the rest of the UK to follow suit after an Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) survey, found that between 2020 and 2021, 92 per cent of retail staff have experienced verbal abuse, with 70 per cent threatened by a customer.

Additionally the UK-wide survey of almost 2000 staff found that 14 per cent of shop staff were physically assaulted during the pandemic.

Figures from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) 2022 Crime Report showed that in the past year, 89 per cent of staff working in convenience stores alone have faced abuse in their job.

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 showed 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.”

Demands to encourage customers to follow covid rules in shops including mask-wearing and follow social distancing measures triggered a major spike in abuse, threats and violence during lockdown.

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 per cent 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."

Rival grocer 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. A spokesman said: "The majority of violent incidents continue to relate to shoplifting."

Andrew Opie at the British Retail Consortium said: "Sadly, this [enforcement of face coverings] has led to a sharp rise in incidents of violence and abuse against shop workers, which is why it is essential police support the work being done by retailers."

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