Ahead of key vote in Parliament to restrict the sale of acid:

Gareth Thomas MP calls for new law to protect shop workers in Harrow from violent attacks and abuse. Poll shows voters want tough new laws to protect shop workers who refuse to sell alcohol, knives and acid to under-18s


Gareth Thomas MP is backing calls for a new law to tackle the rising tide of attacks and threats suffered by shop assistants and shop keeper.


Gareth Thomas MP said:

“Angry and aggressive customers losing their cool is now a regular experience for staff in our local shops. In the worst cases this has led to shop workers being hospitalised or needing time off to recover.


“The biggest trigger for attacks is when staff enforce the law, either by refusing to sell alcohol to customers who are drunk or by asking for ID when customers want to buy age-restricted products that can’t be sold to under-18s.


“Being threatened or attacked while they serve our community should never be any part of the job we ask local shop workers to do. Sadly, that is too often the case and it’s time the law stepped in to stop it happening.


“We require shop workers to act as law enforcers, and in return the law should give them more protection from violent assaults and abuse.”


While shop staff currently have no specific protection in law, extended prison sentences are available for offenders who assault or threaten police officers and other emergency workers including doctors and other NHS staff.


In the Offensive Weapons Bill, to be debated in Parliament on Monday 15 October, the Government is rightly adding acid and other corrosive products to the list of age-restricted products.


Gareth Thomas MP said:


“I am joining other Labour and Co-operative MPs who want to make sure the Offensive Weapons Bill includes a new law to protect shop staff. We are calling on MPs of all parties to support an amendment that would create a new offence of obstructing or threatening a shop worker, punishable by fines of up to £2,500.”


Although the proposed new law is jointly supported by shop workers’ Union USDAW and employers’ organisation the British Retail Consortium, the Government and Home Secretary Sajid Javid are not currently supporting the amendment, which has been tabled by David Hanson, Labour MP for Delyn.


Across the country there has been a staggering increase in attacks and abuse directed at shop staff and shopkeepers in the last year.* The British Retail Consortium’s 2018 survey found 13 staff suffered assault causing injury every day, more than double the previous year. USDAW’s annual members’ survey 2017 found there were 265 attacks using violence every day. Two thirds of retail staff experienced verbal abuse by customers, up from half in 2016, and more than four out of ten had been threatened with violence, up from less than 30 per cent in 2016.


Four out of ten incidents were triggered when shop workers refused to sell restricted goods to under-18s or alcohol to customers who were already drunk, as required by law.


A new poll published by the Co-operative Party today shows that a massive majority of voters believe the Government has a ‘duty’ to protect shop workers who enforce the law by refusing to sell alcohol, knives and acid to under-18s.


The Populus poll** of 1,095 adults, commissioned by the Co-operative Party, shows:


85% of the public agree that: “The government owes a duty of care to shop workers who enforce important laws restricting the sale of certain items like alcohol, acid and knives.”


The public believe the best way to protect shop workers is: “A tough new law to increase criminal sentences for anyone convicted of using threats or violence against a shop worker.”

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