North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, has this weekend expressed concern at new sentencing rules from a Government quango that could mean shoplifters will never face the threat of jail.
The Government-appointed Sentencing Guidelines Council is consulting on new guidelines for courts to follow. Under one option, shoplifters will never be jailed unless they commit an ‘aggravated’ offence, such as involving violence or using children. Under the other option, shoplifters would not face any custodial sentence unless they were ‘seriously persistent’.
Last year, retail crime was estimated to cost businesses £2.1 billion a year, but this figure is thought to under-estimate the full extent, due to under-reporting by shops.
Speaking in his constituency Roger Gale said:
“I think the public will be concerned that a Government body is seriously suggesting those who steal from shops should never be jailed. Such a ‘get out of jail free’ card sends the wrong signal to would-be thieves and gives the green light to more crime across (area). Small firms are the hardest hit by theft, and we all pay the cost in the form of higher prices in shops.
“Certainly, community sentences or fines may be appropriate for some offenders. But a jail sentence must remain as both a deterrent and a punishment for persistent shoplifters. I fear that the Labour Government’s policy of releasing convicted prisoners early, or not sending them to prison at all, is undermining confidence in our criminal justice system.”