Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins (pictured) has hosted representatives from the retail sector for a top-level industry summit on how best to protect staff from violence, threats and abuse.
The Minister agreed to the talks during the report stage of the Offensive Weapons Bill, in response to an amendment tabled by David Hanson MP that would create a new offence if a person attempting to buy corrosive substance or knives abuses, threatens or assaults the retail worker who is enforcing the law.
Among attendees were Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis; NFRN National President Mike Mitchelson; MPs David Hanson and Richard Graham; Chief Inspector Patrick Holdaway from the National Business Crime Centre; and representatives from other retail groups and trade organisations.
Following what Paddy Lillis described as “a positive discussion” the Minister agreed to look at the possibility of holding a consultation into the types of measures that could be introduced to protect retail staff and will formally respond after Christmas.
Lillis said Atkins – the Minister responsible for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability – asked to be given time to consider concerns raised at the meeting.
“We reserve the right to return to the Offensive Weapons Bill if the Government doesn’t agree to a review of legislation,” he added.
“A specific offence of obstructing a retail worker who is enforcing the law, which is easily understood by employers, staff, police, judiciary, shoppers and most of all violent criminals is absolutely necessary.”
Mike Mitchelson commented: “We were pleased to have the opportunity to share our members’ concerns about their safety with the Home Office Minister. Shop owners and their staff do feel vulnerable, particularly when they are confronted by angry customers when they are dealing with the sale of age restricted products.
“Everyone behind a counter needs to feel they have the law on their side and the protection of police and those are points that we stressed at today’s meeting.”