Assaulting, threatening & impeding retail workers

The Scottish government recently passed this bill to protect retail staff from customer abuse and threats. Our lawyers have extensive experience in offences with litigation very similar to this, such as section 38. Abuse, violence and threats have been an issue for many years now in retail.

Assaulting, threatening & impeding retail workers FAQ

A: This bill makes it an offence to assault, threaten or impede a member of staff working in a retail setting. It also includes the aggravated offence when the retail worker is asking for identification for the purchase of age-restricted goods.

There has been a 450% rise in violence towards retail staff over recent years. The rise of coronavirus frustrating people’s shopping experience and generally increasing stress levels has lead to retail workers facing more abuse. To protect retail staff more the bill seeks to:

  • create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening, abusing, obstructing or hindering a retail worker engaged in retail work;
  • provide for the aggravation of that offence where the retail worker is enforcing a statutory age restriction.

What is the offence, and how is it prosecuted?

The Bill seeks to create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening, abusing, obstructing or hindering a retail worker engaged in retail work. It would only apply where the offender knew, or ought to have known, that the victim was a retail worker involved in such work.

Assaulting a retail worker, will fall under this new law, but you may be prosecuted under common assault instead. The bill’s section on threatening behaviour is similar to a section 38 offence, but there are some differences. A section 38 offence includes the requirement for the accused’s conduct to likely cause a reasonable person fear or alarm.

Obstructing or hindering a retail worker is perhaps the most confusing element of this offence. The bill states a person is only guilty of the crime if there is behaviour that intentionally prevents the retail worker. Obstructing or hindering a retail worker is not just about physically interfering with their work. The offence can also include interfering with retail workers’ tools such as a vehicle or other objects.

Age verification

When a retail worker asks for age verification, they are upholding the law. This new offence also aims to make people understand the seriousness of age verification and interfering with someone carrying out their lawful duty. Threatening, obstructing or hindering someone upholding the law in a retail dynamic is somewhat similar to the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005. This Act criminalises interfering/impeding with emergency workers carrying out their work.

What are the penalties?

The Bill suggests that only summary procedure can be used to prosecute the accused. The offences would carry a maximum fine of £10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months. There may also be community payback orders used to penalise offenders.

Criminal law defence – reasonableness

The obstructing and interfering with retail workers part of the offence includes a reasonableness defence. This means that you have a defence if your actions were reasonable in the given circumstances. For example, if a retail worker was abusive or threatening towards you and you responded to this, you would have a defence. The accused needs to prove their actions were reasonable. If you manage to do this, then the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your actions were not reasonable to obtain a conviction.

Call a criminal defence lawyer at Graham Walker Solicitors

Being accused of a crime can be a stressful and challenging time. Here at Graham Walker Solicitors, we understand this. Our team are available 24/7 to talk through a case no matter the stage it is at. You may be entitled to Legal Aid for your case. Try our Legal Aid eligibility calculator or simply call us and explain your circumstances. Even without Legal Aid, we offer incredibly competitive prices, but more importantly, we get the result for our clients.