A growing coalition of staff and business representatives are calling on the Government to accept an amendment, tabled by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, that will give extra legal protection to staff who are assaulted whilst selling alcohol.
A letter published in today’s Sunday Telegraph, shows the breadth of this coalition which includes: Usdaw the shopworkers trade union; business groups representing the full spectrum of alcohol retailers from large multiples to small independents, and Pubwatch who bring licensees and police together to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour in public houses.
The letter read:
‘We write as representatives of staff and licensees in the alcohol sales industry to urge Peers to support a House of Lords amendment to the Government’s Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, promoted by Lord George Foulkes of Cumnock, that will introduce a specific offence of assaulting a worker selling alcohol, making such an assault an offence in its own right.
‘Staff in the pub, retail and hospitality trades are the first line of defence against unauthorised sales of alcohol and there is a real need to address the scourge of violence against these workers. We are concerned that the attackers are getting away with relatively lenient sentences.
‘Often, in the course of their duties, shop and bar workers are expected to take on a pseudo police officer role and enforce the law. Under our licensing laws staff have to prevent under-age purchases and refuse sales to customers who have already had too much to drink. This can often lead to violence, threats and abuse against the worker.
‘We want Parliament to provide a real deterrent to the small minority of individuals who cause real damage to the reputation of the pub, off-licence and hospitality trade and have no respect for the hard working people who serve them. Parliament has placed a duty on these workers to enforce and police the laws they pass, so it is only right they also provide the additional protection needed to help keep those workers safe.’
John Hannett - General Secretary, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers
Stephen Baker - Chairman, National Pubwatch
Miles Beale - Chief Executive, Wine and Spirit Trade Association
Nick Grant - Retail of Alcohol Standards Group
James Lowman - Chief Executive, Association of Convenience Stores
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 431,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
Examples of lenient sentences given to assailants of workers selling alcohol
A landlord in Bolton refused to serve a young man who he knew to be under-age. When he took his dogs out for a walk that night, the youth beat him up, kicking his face while he was on the ground, causing extensive cuts and bruising. The police arrested him, but let him off the next day with a caution.
A shopworker in Quedgeley working at a till refused to serve a customer alcohol. The customer swore and shouted at her and she called her manager for assistance. The store manager agreed the customer was too drunk to serve and asked the customer to leave the shop. He refused to leave. Whilst staff were trying to escort him out of the shop he kicked and punched 3 members of staff. He also spat in the face of the store manager. The police were called and he was given a police caution.
At a Plymouth night club a doorman was hit with an empty champagne bottle by a customer wanting to be served more alcohol. He was described to the Court as having gone “berserk” and striking the doorman with the empty bottle. Whilst the judge agreed that using a bottle, as a weapon passed the custodial threshold, the assailant was given a suspended sentence.