Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill: Robert Goodwill, Scarborough and Whitby MP, demands increased penalties for those who assault shop workers

Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, pushed for increased penalties for those who assault shop workers in the House of Commons yesterday.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 1:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 1:46 pm
Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill. Picture: JPI Media
Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill. Picture: JPI Media

Speaking during the third reading of the Police Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill, Mr Goodwill pointed out that whilst the bill proposes an increase in the penalty for assault on emergency workers from 12 months to two years, other key workers are not included.

He said: "Many other key workers are on the frontline, too.

"Indeed, shop workers have borne the brunt of much of the abuse about mask wearing and social distancing in stores, on top of the existing problems associated with age verification for the purpose of alcoholic drinks purchases, drunken abusive behaviour, and of course shoplifting."

Mr Goodwill went on to say that often shop keepers are working alone.

He continued: "Late-night shops are often run single-handedly, so the distress and trauma associated with assaults or threatening behaviour should not be underestimated.

"I am due to meet shortly with in-store workers from my local Tesco to see at first hand how this problem has affected staff in that setting.

"I hope the Minister can reassure me—either now or when she sums up at the end—that she is aware of the issue’s importance and that amendments may not be necessary to deliver the action we all believe is needed."

In response to Mr Goodwill, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department Victoria Atkins, said an amendment in the Lords was being considered.

She said: "I know how strongly [Mr Goodwill] and other members across the house, including my hon. friend the Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers), feel about the matter.

"I reassure the house that we are not complacent about ensuring that the criminal law is fit for purpose.

"We are actively considering an amendment in the Lords if appropriate."

An amendment to the bill, clause 31, that would have made assaulting retail workers a separate offence was proposed by the shadow policing minister Sarah Jones MP, however it was defeated in a vote by 350 votes to 233.

Mr Goodwill voted against the amendment, saying afterwards to The Scarborough News that the Government has resolved to introduce an amendment in the House of Lords referring to retail workers and he was 'happy to accept that assurance.'

Meanwhile Usdaw, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, said they were 'disappointed' the ammendment had been voted down.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary said: “Today MPs had the opportunity to back a new law to protect shop workers, which is supported by our members, customers and retailers.

"We are deeply disappointed that they let that opportunity pass them by at a time when our members are facing unprecedented levels of violence, threats and abuse.

“However the Minister promised twice during the debate that they would bring forward an amendment in the House of Lords and we urge the Government to keep to their word and ensure that the measures they bring forward will be substantial and deliver much needed protections."

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill is a huge piece of legislation that includes major government proposals on crime and justice in England and Wales.

Some of the proposals include, changing sentencing rules so that serious criminals spend more time in jail before they can be conditionally released; changes to sexual offences law to tackle abusive adults in positions of trust, such as sports coaches and religious figures and community sentences for less serious crime to address underlying problems in offenders' lives.

The bill will also allow judges to consider jailing child murderers for their entire lives and it will also double the maximum sentences for low-level assaults against emergency service workers.

The bill has been widely criticised by opposition MPs due to its proposed changed to protests.

It allows the police to put conditions on certain protests that are noisy enough to cause "intimidation or harassment" or "serious unease, alarm or distress to bystanders", including protests consisting of one person.

The proposed law was first debated by MPs just days after a vigil was held for York woman Sarah Everard, amid concerns over the way the event had been policed.

And so-called Kill the Bill protests were held in cities across the UK by campaigners who believe proposed curbs to protest go against individual human rights.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill was voted on by MPs last night and passed with 365 votes for and 265 opposing.

It will now be move to the House of Lords.