02 March 2007, 16:05 PM
  • According to the latest research, almost half (47%) of Britons back lighter sentences for shoplifters.

According to a report published by G4S Security Services (UK), over 17.5 million Britons aged 16-64 agree with the sentencing advisory panel’s recommendation that the toughest penalty for shop-lifting should be a high-level community service order, rather than a custodial sentence.     

G4S believes that Briton’s permissive attitude to the punishment of shoplifters is reflected in their view of the ethics of the sale and purchase of shoplifted merchandise. Just one-in-three (35%) Britons would report someone to the police who they believed was selling goods that had been shoplifted. Those aged 35 years and over are the most likely to report someone to the authorities, with 40% saying they would take action. However, this figure falls to just 26% for those aged 16-34 years old. 

Additionally, a quarter (26%) of Britons would purchase an item they suspected had been shoplifted if the price was sufficiently attractive. Those aged 16-24 are the most likely to put moral concerns aside in pursuit of a bargain. G4S’ research reveals that Britons are willing to take a complicit role in the cycle of shoplifting if the price is sufficiently attractive.   

Nigel Evans MP, Ribble Valley, said, “While prison overcrowding is an obvious issue, it is self-defeating to inform criminals that the highest level of punishment for shoplifting is a community service order, rather than a custodial sentence. Removing the deterrent of a jail sentence may be perceived as providing a ‘green light’ for shoplifters.  However, it is not just the penalties for this crime that need to be addressed. It is important we look at the causes of shoplifting, such as drug abuse which lead people to steal to fund their habit. A wider debate about both the causes and punishment for shop lifters is to be welcomed.”

Douglas Greenwell at G4s states, “Faced with increased online competition, retailers can ill afford the costs of retail shrinkage through shoplifting. It is vital that everything possible is done to prevent shoplifting, which is a major drain on resources and results in significant lost revenues. Retailers not only lose stock from shoplifting, but also incur lost sales as criminals sell the goods on to someone that would otherwise have purchased the item legitimately. The costs of shrinkage are ultimately felt by all consumers in the price they pay for their goods. It is in the public interest for this scourge of the retail sector to be discouraged as far as possible.”