UK ministers set to take tougher stance on shoplifting

Government ministers are reportedly planning to introduce tougher sentences against shoplifters, with those caught set to be targeted with mandatory jail sentences for repeat offences.

According to The Times, a new crime and justice bill will introduce tougher sentences for offences which currently do not necessarily result in a prison sentence such as shoplifting, burglary, theft and common assault.

The report also notes that there will also be greater use of facial recognition by police and retailers following news that the Information Commissioner’s Office had approved the use of Facewatch, a company which charges retailers £10 a day for facial recognition tech and can be plugged into existing CCTV systems.

Facewatch claims it has a recognition accuracy of 99.85 per cent, and that all non-matching images are automatically deleted. The technology has been tested by retailers including Co-op, Spar, Budgens, Costcutters and Sports Direct, with an initial pilot leading to a 20 per cent drop in assaults against retail workers.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) estimated that there were eight million cases of shoplifting in the UK in the 12 months to March – a far cry from the police’s recorded total of 339,206 cases, of which only 48,218 resulted in charges. The BRC estimates that shoplifting costs retailers around £1 billion per year.

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