A majority of shoplifters are women. A piece in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph:
Shoplifting goods worth less than £200 has been effectively decriminalised, a former police chief says, as he reveals police and shops have stopped prosecuting the thefts due to a Government loophole.
David McKelvey, a former Scotland Yard detective who provides a private prosecution service to stores, said a decision by the Government to downgrade thefts of less than £200 meant it was worth no one’s time or money to prosecute shoplifters.
Just one in 20 of all shoplifting offences are now prosecuted while the number of cautions for such thefts – of all values – have fallen from 40,000 to just 5,000 in a decade, according to figures obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
The loophole stems from the requirement for any shoplifting offence under £200 to be treated as a summary offence which should be handled through a penalty notice fine of just £70 without the thief having to turn up at magistrates.
Mr McKelvey said this downgrading had been a green light to police to abandon prosecutions and investigations into such thefts which could tie up an officer for six to eight hours when they could be tackling more serious crime.
Last year Mr McKelvey, a former DCI with the Met, set up the UK’s first private prosecution service to tackle shoplifting for stores in central London – and has brought 60 thieves to justice since it was launched.
However, he said courts had now been told that they could not award costs for any prosecution of a shoplifting of less than £200 as it was barred under rules for summary offences. This made such prosecutions, which could cost up to £2,000, unviable.
“The Government has effectively decriminalised shoplifting. Provided a thief stays below the £200 threshold, they are not going to be arrested. Police won’t be called and the worst they get is a fixed penalty of £70 and they are still in profit with £130,” said Mr Mckelvey. “And we can’t prosecute because we cannot recover the costs of our investigation.” [J4MB emphasis]
He said he had considered seeking a judicial review of the Government’s decision but had been advised it was unlikely to succeed.
Instead, his private “bobbies” are tailing shoplifters to tally up their thefts at different shops to above and prosecuting them for “going equipped” if they can show they have secret pockets or cutting equipment for shop security tags.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has written to police chiefs urging them to prosecute thefts under £200 although it is claimed this has had little effect.
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