Latest Home Office proposals slammed
Retailers have slammed proposals to let first-time shoplifters off with an apology and fear the Home Office is preparing to go even softer on criminals who target shops, according to the BRC.

A Home Office consultation on revised measures to tackle anti-social behaviour closed today, with proposals to extend the existing system of on-the-spot fines for first-time offenders. This fining system is to include repeat offenders, with an on-the-street apology for first-time shoplifters.

According to the BRC, retailers feel fixed penalty notices, which were introduced for shoplifting offences less than three years ago, are being routinely abused. In a number of cases the fines are being incorrectly applied, without the victim's consent, to repeat offenders and for offences where goods worth more than£200 have been stolen.

The BRC said extending the use of on-the-spot fines will further dilute penalties for shop crime - which costs the industry£2.1 billion a year - and will give offenders the green light to re-offend.

BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'The average shoplifter makes off with£149 worth of goods every time they steal. It is nonsense to think a repeat offender is going to be put off by an£80 fine. And what kind of message does it send to a first time offender if all they have to do is say a quick 'sorry' before heading off home?

'The Home Office simply doesn't understand the nature of the crime. It is not some victimless bit of naughtiness. It has a significant human and social cost, leaves shop staff open to acts of violence and costs retailers more than£2 billion a year.

'We're not suggesting that the kid who makes a one-off mistake should be nailed to the wall, but repeat offenders should know that if they go on stealing they will be punished. 'Sorry' or a token fine is no deterrent.'

Penalty Notices for Disorder (PND) were introduced to deal with first time offences for the theft of goods under the value of£200. However, they have failed to stem the rapid rise in the number of shoplifting offences, which have risen 70 per cent since 2000.

Total cost of crime in 2005£2.1 billion

Total losses from shoplifting in 2005£767 million

Total cost of crime since 2000£13.39 billion

Average cost per shoplifting incident£149