John Halewood-Dodd column

John Halewood Dodd.
John Halewood Dodd.
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I have previously stated that although we are constantly told that crime in general is on the decline one area of criminality that officially bucks the trend is low level theft, and in particular shoplifting.

Personally, I question whether there has really been such a reduction in crime but my experience is that shoplifting is certainly on the increase.

The most recent figures collated illustrate that there were over 111,000 convictions for offences of theft in England and Wales in 2012, and of these almost three quarters were for shoplifting.

Given the rise in offences of this type, and no doubt influenced by the costs of locking people up among other considerations, there have been suggestions that low-level shoplifting should not attract a custodial sentence.

Those who are imprisoned for shoplifting invariably receive short term sentences, with the average sentence being eight weeks, of which half is served behind bars.

These short sentences do little to rehabilitate offenders as there is clearly insufficient opportunity to carry out any constructive work with them.

Since the implementation of the Theft Act 1968 offences of theft, including shoplifting, carry a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.

However, it is extremely rare for sentences of such length to be meted out for even the most prolific, and even professional, of shoplifters.

It seems as though moves are afoot to address this, which is likely to lead to more severe sentences being handed out.

The extremely influential Sentencing Council have published draft guidelines (which I feel will be implemented) that make it clear that shoplifting will no longer be perceived as a victimless crime.

The suggestion is that prolific offenders, even where the value is low, should be receiving prison sentences, some of which are likely to be lengthy.

The message is quite clear, as signs in many retail establishments proclaim, shoplifters beware.