Labour Blames UK Government's 'Shoplifters' Charter' for Rise in Retail Crime

Labour accuses UK govt of creating "shoplifters' charter" leading to record retail crime and declining charges. Parties clash over solutions to protect businesses and communities.

Bijay Laxmi
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Labour Blames UK Government's 'Shoplifters' Charter' for Rise in Retail Crime

Labour Blames UK Government's 'Shoplifters' Charter' for Rise in Retail Crime

The Labour Party has accused the UK government of creating a "shoplifters' charter" that has led to a significant rise in retail crime and a decline in charges for shoplifting offences. According to figures obtained by Labour under the Freedom of Information Act, shoplifting offences in England and Wales reached a record 402,482 in the year to September 2023, but the number of offences resulting in a police charge decreased from 20% to 15% between 2018 and 2023.

Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said offenders are "getting off scot-free" as the decrease in charges has not been matched by a rise in other penalties, with more than 54% of shoplifting offences dropped with no suspect identified. "Under the Tories too many communities and high streets are being affected by staggering increases in shoplifting, but charge rates are going down," Cooper stated.

Labour partly blames a 2014 move by then-Home Secretary Theresa May to introduce a "low value" shoplifting category for items worth under £200, which they say has led to police deprioritizing such offences. The rise in shoplifting and attacks on staff have caused some retailers to take security measures like locking away everyday products.

Why this matters: The surge in retail crime and decline in police charges have significant implications for businesses, employees, and communities across the UK. Addressing this issue is critical for protecting retailers, ensuring public safety, and maintaining the vitality of high streets and local economies.

Labour has pledged to scrap the "shoplifters' charter" and bring in a community policing guarantee if elected, with 13,000 more neighbourhood police and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to tackle the problem. However, Home Office minister Chris Philp disputed Labour's claims, stating that people in Labour-run areas are more likely to be victims of shoplifting and crime than those in Conservative areas. The government has announced tougher punishments for serial or abusive shoplifters and made assaulting a retail worker a standalone criminal offence.

Key Takeaways

  • Labour accuses UK govt of creating "shoplifters' charter" leading to retail crime surge
  • Shoplifting offences reached record 402,482 in 2023, but charges dropped from 20% to 15%
  • Labour blames 2014 "low value" shoplifting category, police deprioritizing such offences
  • Labour pledges to scrap "shoplifters' charter", add 13,000 more police to tackle issue
  • Govt disputes claims, says people in Labour areas more likely to be victims of crime