Everyone has the right to feel safe at work and assaults on shop workers are unacceptable.
In April 2019, the Home Office launched a call for evidence on violence and abuse toward shop staff to help gather evidence to strengthen their understanding of the scale and extent of such abuse against retail workers. The Government’s response to that call for evidence is anticipated to be published shortly.
There are already a range of offences that cover assaults against any worker including those in the retail sector. It is for our independent courts to determine the sentence in each individual case based on the full circumstances of the offence and offender, and in line with relevant sentencing guidelines – which are issued by the independent Sentencing Council. The most serious violent offences against shop workers can be punishable by sentences up to life imprisonment. The average custodial sentence length for, assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) and assault occasioning grievous bodily harm (GBH) has increased over the last decade.
Sentencing guidelines on assault include an aggravating factor of ‘offence committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public’. In its supplementary guidance issued in 2019, the Sentencing Council was clear that this could apply to those working in the private as well as the public sector. This aggravating factor is taken into account by the courts, when deciding what sentence to impose. The Sentencing Council is reviewing its guidelines on assault and has published a consultation on a revised assault guideline on 16 April 2020.