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Government introduces amendments to tackle retail crime and nuisance rough sleeping in new bill

Government introduces amendments to tackle retail crime and nuisance rough sleeping in new bill


The UK government has announced a series of amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, targeting retail crime and nuisance rough sleeping with new offences and enhanced measure

The UK government has tabled a third and final set of amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, aimed at addressing the rising issues of retail crime and nuisance rough sleeping. These changes, intended to offer better protection to retail workers and manage rough sleeping more effectively, come after widespread concerns and input from various stakeholders.

Tackling Retail Crime

To combat the increasing number of assaults on retail workers and incidents of shoplifting, the government has introduced several new clauses. These include:

  • Assault of Retail Worker: Establishing a specific offence for assaulting a retail worker, reflecting the sector's call for stronger protections. Courts will now have the presumption to issue a Criminal Behaviour Order when the prosecution requests it. For repeat offenders, electronic monitoring will be mandated on the third sentencing occasion, forming part of a community order.

  • Electronic Monitoring for Shoplifters: For those convicted of shoplifting, a new clause introduces a presumption towards electronic monitoring on the third offence. This measure is designed to enhance the use of GPS tagging to monitor and deter habitual offenders.

These changes build on the Prime Minister's April announcement and the National Police Chiefs’ Council's commitments from their October 2023 Action Plan, further supporting operational policing efforts to curb retail crime.

Laura Farris MP, Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, stated: "The offence of assaulting a retail worker, as provided for in the new clause, is supported by the retail sector. This new offence will enable the courts to address the underlying causes of the offender’s behaviour and offer greater protection to retail workers."

Addressing Nuisance Rough Sleeping

The government also aims to address rough sleeping, focusing on those causing significant public nuisance. Key amendments include:

  • Tighter Definitions: The definition of nuisance rough sleeping is refined to include only actual damage, distress, disruption, or harassment, removing vague terms like 'intending to' or 'appearing to' sleep rough and references to environmental damage such as smells.

  • Civil Tools and Support Emphasis: The amendments emphasise a support-led approach, where police and local authorities must direct individuals to appropriate services before enforcement. The Home Secretary will issue statutory guidance to ensure that enforcement is a last resort, used only when other interventions fail.

  • Simplified Enforcement: The removal of the offence for non-compliance with a rough sleeping direction provides additional opportunities for engagement by local authority outreach workers, further reinforcing the focus on support over punishment.

Chris Philp MP, Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire, explained: "We have listened to the concerns raised during the passage of the Bill about the breadth of the nuisance rough sleeping provisions. These changes reflect the Government’s intention to provide proportionate powers to address actual nuisance caused and to ensure that individuals receive the support they need."

Legislative Changes

These amendments follow extensive consultation and reflect concerns raised by MPs, such as Bob Blackman and Nickie Aiken, regarding the breadth of the original provisions. The changes aim to ensure that the new powers are proportionate, targeted, and used to support individuals while protecting the public.

The amendments also ensure that the nuisance rough sleeping provisions and the repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824 will come into force simultaneously, three months after the Bill receives Royal Assent.

The government's latest amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill represent a significant step towards addressing retail crime and managing nuisance rough sleeping. By introducing specific offences and enhancing support mechanisms, these measures aim to create a safer environment for retail workers and more effectively support vulnerable individuals sleeping rough, ensuring a balanced approach to enforcement and social support.

Laura Farris further commented: "This legislative change will provide that on the third sentencing occasion for a shoplifting offence, an offender would be electronically monitored as part of any community sentence or sentence order. This will strengthen our efforts to expand the use of Global Positioning System tagging."

Chris Philp concluded: "We recognise the need to ensure that these replacement powers are proportionate and properly targeted and can both protect the public and help rough sleepers into relevant support."