"These proposals represent a significant softening of the punishment for shoplifting. The law-abiding public expect that people stealing from shops should be properly punished, particularly if they are persistent offenders. We need to avoid a situation where the proper custodial deterrents for shoplifting are reduced to mere occupational hazards like small fines and conditional discharges. The Government has not provided enough prison places and, as a result, is having to release prisoners early or not send them to prison in the first place. The public and the criminal justice system deserve better."
The maximum sentence for shoplifting is currently seven years but an advisory panel to the Home Office has recommended ending the practice of jailing offenders. Already the chances of imprisonment are low. Of 280,461 recorded offences last year only 13,135 were imprisoned – most of those found guilty were punished with penalty fines. Shoplifting reportedly adds £1 to the average family’s weekly bills.