Shoplifters, burglars and violent criminals who commit repeat offences will be handed mandatory prison sentences under plans being drawn up by ministers.
The government plans to force judges to impose jail terms when sentencing repeat offenders for shoplifting, burglary, theft and common assault, using new legislation to be included in the crime and justice bill.
Currently, these offences do not necessarily result in a prison sentence, the way that two convictions for knife crime automatically do. The number of offences required for a prison sentence would vary according to the type of crime, according to the Times.
A government source told the newspaper the trigger for a custodial sentence for repeat shoplifting would likely be between 10 and 20 instances as it is a lower-level offence than knife crime, for example, although planning for the legislation is still in its early stages. Lower thresholds are reportedly being considered for burglary, theft and common assault.
The government is also in favour of police and retailers making greater use of facial recognition technology.
On Sunday, the Observer reported that Home Office officials had made plans to lobby the independent privacy regulator in an attempt to roll out facial recognition technology into high street shops and supermarkets to combat shoplifting.
The covert strategy was agreed during a closed-door meeting on 8 March between the policing minister, Chris Philp, senior Home Office officials and the private firm Facewatch, whose facial recognition cameras provoked fierce opposition after being installed in shops.
Philp is also said to be urging police forces to make greater use of the technology and artificial intelligence to match known shoplifters with images on the police national computer.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Shoplifting strikes at the heart of local communities and we expect police forces to take this seriously – deterring this kind of crime but also catching more offenders.
“We have delivered more police officers in England and Wales than ever before and invested a record of up to £17.6bn in 2023/24 into policing, including for more visible patrols in our neighbourhoods and better security such as CCTV and alarm systems.”
(Source: The Guardian)