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Volume 897: debated on Saturday 16 August 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to amend the law on shoplifting.

No, Sir. The issues of law are indistinguishable from those in any other form of theft; the issues of fact are best resolved by a court.

If my hon. Friend is not prepared to introduce legislation on shoplifting, is he prepared to increase the number of guilty people who are prosecuted for such offences and to diminish the number of innocent people who are prosecuted?

As in almost every other aspect of the criminal law, there is the matter of detection, assembling the evidence, and proper proof before the criminal courts. I am aware of some of the difficulties that have arisen in relation to shoplifting, but almost all of them arise from questions of fact which have to be decided by the courts in due course.

Does the Minister not accept that the introduction of supermarket shopping has been largely responsible for the rapid increase in shoplifting? Further, does he not accept that only by insisting that supermarkets take preventive measures will shoplifting be reduced?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the working party's report indicated ways in which the shopkeeper should take steps to try to prevent shoplifting. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the Government should legislate against self-service shops, which have proved to be of considerable convenience to most members of the public.