The Cook government has introduced harsher sentences for retail theft, with a broader range of sentencing options available to the courts and repeat offenders now facing potential gaol time.

These reforms follow increased penalties for assaults on retail workers that were announced earlier this month.

Currently, thefts of $1,000 or less that are dealt with in the Magistrates Court face a fine only penalty of $6,000. Other options available to the court are a suspended fine, conditional release order, or community-based order. A term of imprisonment cannot be imposed, regardless of any previous offences.

Under the new penalties, repeat offenders who have two or more convictions of theft or attempted theft will no longer be subject to the fine only penalty. Instead, these offenders will be subject to the higher maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000.

WA Premier Roger Cook said that this was an important step in protecting local businesses.

“My government is standing up for small business owners, many of whom are families, as well as their hard-working staff who’ve quite rightly had enough. Serial shoplifters shouldn’t be allowed to snub their nose at the law and that is why my government is taking action,” he said.

Attorney General John Quigley believes that these harsher penalties will provide a more effective deterrent for repeat offenders.

“Shoplifting is a pervasive issue that all retail workers confront, which particularly impacts small businesses. The fine only penalty for low level stealing offences is well known in the community and does not provide a sufficient deterrent for would-be offenders.

“These reforms, combined with the increased penalty for assaults on retail workers that were announced, will make retail environments a safer place for employees, and importantly, the community,” he said.

Retail Drinks Australia supports the reforms, as CEO Michael Waters told National Liquor News.

“We support the WA Government’s moves to be stronger on retail crime. Coupled with their announcement from earlier this month, this will provide a further deterrent to serial offenders. This comes off the back of the recent launch of the Retail Drinks Safe to Serve industry responsibility initiative, providing liquor stores with the necessary tools and resources to target harden their businesses.

“We also believe the WA Government can do more through mandatory rehabilitation for these serial offenders to help directly address the root of the problem,” he said.

The Liquor Stores Association of WA (LSA WA) congratulated the Cook government’s efforts, but the association has called for more focus to be put on shoplifters at their first offence, not their third.

For LSA WA CEO Peter Peck, these first offence penalties do not necessarily require gaol time. and should address the root cause of the issue.

“You cannot arrest your way out of a problem.

“If the government wants to change people’s behaviour and protect small business there needs to be a plan in place, whether it be involuntary counselling or involuntary rehabilitation to ensure offenders are cognisant of their actions and the consequences that follow,” he said.

This is especially true in cases of alcohol theft, and LSA WA calls for wraparound support for offenders affected by alcoholism, economic distress, or other issues.

“People steal alcohol for one of two reasons. Either they’re stealing because they don’t care about other people, or they’re stealing because they have an addiction or a mental illness,” Peck said.

“I want penalties that actually give people the chance to turn their lives around.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *