National Business Crime Solution (NBCS), a not for profit initiative that enables the sharing of data between law enforcement agencies and the business community in order to reduce crime, in conjunction with Tees Law, has announced the launch of a new initiative that will help retailers tackle the problem of repeat offenders. This new service can issue exclusion notices and civil injunctions, which are proven to act as a workable deterrent.
As a result of many years of cuts to police service funding, allocating resources to tackling business crime has not been considered a priority. Furthermore, reporting crime takes time and an increasing number of retailers are opting not to do so, as it usually requires internal documentation, dealing with the police and perhaps even liaison with local crime partnerships. In addition, given that The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 makes theft from a shop of goods worth £200 or less a summary-only offence, it seems that retailers are simply not pursuing some cases.
However, repeat offending can result in significant amounts of lost revenue and also exacerbates the risk and threat of violence if store colleagues try to recover items from an individual. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has expressed fears that the police regard shoplifting as a ‘victimless crime’ and retailers are therefore faced with the choice of doing nothing, increasing the use of expensive manned guarding in store or using the civil courts to initiate measures to stop criminals. NBCS believes that the latter option gives retailers an opportunity to take positive steps to stop individuals from exploiting the weaknesses in the criminal justice system and acting with impunity.
NBCS can now help to identify an offender and, in the first instance, issue an exclusion notice, which withdraws the implied invitation to enter one or more of the retailer’s premises and the notice can be served at home, at work, or even in the street. If the exclusion notice is subsequently breached, NBCS can work to obtain additional details of offences committed by those individuals across its membership database in order to cross-reference their activities with other members.
If the individual continues to offend the next step is to take out a civil injunction. This is a civil order that is available in the county court for over 18s. To obtain an injunction the court must be satisfied that an individual has engaged in, or threatens to engage in conduct that is capable of causing nuisance and annoyance in premises belonging to the retailer in question and the implied right to enter that retailer’s premises has been withdrawn. An injunction can include a power of arrest in cases where the perpetrator has used or threatened violence, or if there is a significant risk of harm to others. If a perpetrator fails to change their behaviour they can receive more serious sanctions, and if they do not obey the order they will be considered guilty of contempt of court and could be fined or sent to prison.
The new service has already been hailed a success, with a national fashion retailer recently issuing an exclusion notice to a female repeat offender who has stolen clothing and other items worth many thousands of pounds. By sharing information including the individual’s name, a series of crime reference numbers and her offending profile, NBCS was able to locate her address and personally serve the exclusion notice.
‘In my experience civil injunctions are an effective mechanism for stopping repeat offenders,’ commented Peter Fisher, membership manager at NBCS. ‘We believe that sharing information is a key factor in reducing business crime and our new service is the perfect case in point. Although this is a paid for service, once we have identified a criminal, we can issue multiple exclusion notices and civil injunctions across a number of organisations, which spreads the cost. This is just the latest in a long line of reasons why membership of NBCS is highly effective and highlights our determination to take responsibility for business crime make positive steps forward in dealing with this issue.’