To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how his Department is assessing the effect of its policy to allow police forces to convict people who steal under £200 by post on levels of retail crime; and what assessment he has made of the effect of that policy on the regional disparity in retail crime offences.
Shop theft is a high-volume crime that has a significant impact on retailers and the wider community. This is why we encourage retailers to report these crimes to the police, so that proportionate action can be taken against those who commit these offences.
By virtue of section 176 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the shoplifting of goods of a value of £200 or less is a summary offence unless the defendant, if an adult, elects to be tried in the Crown Court. Where a summary offence, the case can be handled as a police-led prosecution, and the defendant will be given the opportunity to plead guilty by post.
Police-led prosecutions were introduced to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system by allowing for a simpler, more proportionate police-led process in high-volume, low-level, uncontested cases. We have not undertaken a specific assessment of the effect of this approach in relation to shop theft, including in relation to any regional variations in retail crime offences. However, the National Retail Crime Steering Group which I co-chair with the British Retail Consortium provides a forum for addressing issues in relation to shoplifting, which is a priority issue for the Steering Group.