Convenience retailer Co-op has hailed government plans to make assaulting a retail worker a standalone criminal offence as a “victory for co-operation”.

Under the plans, perpetrators could be sent to prison for up to six months, receive an unlimited fine and be banned from going back to the shop where they committed their crimes, with Criminal Behaviour Orders barring them visiting specific premises.

Breaching an order is also a criminal offence and carries a five-year maximum prison sentence. For the most serious cases of assault, such as causing grievous bodily harm with intent, offenders could face a life sentence.

In February, Co-op revealed that retail crime had hit record levels in 2023, and the company set out a ten-point plan focused on turning the tide on prolific offenders.

Central to the report’s recommendations is making an attack on shopworkers a stand-alone offence which is something Co-op has campaigned for since 2018.

The government’s announcement is seen by Co-op and its member-owners as a move which builds on the advancements seen to address crime, violence and intimidation since the introduction of the Retail Crime Action Plan.

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Co-op CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq commented: “This announcement will resonate with shopworkers the length and breadth of the country. It sends a strong and clear message to shopworkers that they have been listened to, and a warning to criminals that their unacceptable behaviour will no longer be tolerated.”

Co-op has reportedly invested more than £200m ($253.9m) over recent years in colleague and store safety and security, including the latest interactive CCTV; body-worn cameras, the roll-out of fortified kiosks, use of dummy (or empty) packaging to deter bulk-theft and, covert (undercover) and non-covert guarding – with the tactical use of specially trained guards able to detain criminals.