The Home Office report includes a measure that would have the practice of issuing on-the-spot fines for minor offences further watered down. The Government is also planning to suspend these fines in cases where offenders agree to a probationary period of good behaviour, known as an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC). If they do not offend again for six months, the penalty will be dropped entirely.
The measure is designed to tackle anti-social behaviour such as spraying graffiti and littering. However, shoplifting is also among the offences that, in some circumstances, can be dealt with by an on-the-spot fine known as a Penalty Notice for Disorder.
The BRC believes this approach is wholly inappropriate for shoplifting offences, which cost the retail industry more than£2 billion a year.
BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'Treating shoplifters in the same way as people caught for littering or swearing in public is ludicrous. Shoplifting is a crime, pure and simple, and it should be treated that way. On average, shoplifters make off with£150 worth of goods each time they steal, so a slap on the wrist and black mark against the thief's name is no deterrent. We're all under an ABC - that's what being a law-abiding citizen means. Letting thieves off if they don't steal again is rewarding them for what they should be doing anyway.
'What we need from the Home Office is a firm line on retail crime. Would-be thieves need to know that if they do choose to steal, then they're going to be dealt with like criminals, not naughty schoolboys.'