What is the Law on Shoplifting?


One of the most common crimes that is committed in the UK is shoplifting. It is carried out by different age groups and there are a number of reasons why somebody may choose to shoplift. For example, they might do this for fun and to get goods they want or because they feel like they have to because of their financial situation. Either way, shoplifting is still a crime and there are consequences that you will face if you are found guilty. Let’s take a closer look at the details.

What is Shoplifting?

Shoplifting is the act of taking items or goods from a store that you have not paid for. It will depend on the value of the items you take to decide what legislation you will be charged under. For example, if the goods are priced at under £200, this means that you may be charged with shoplifting under section 176 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. If the goods amount to over £200, this can be considered theft under section 1 of the Theft Act 1986.

Under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, it is referred to as ‘low value shoplifting’. This is a quick route and means that you would not have to attend court if you are accused on this crime. It is possible to plead guilty in a similar way that you deal with a speeding ticket.

However, it is important to note that if you are charged under the Theft Act 1986, this is serious. Under section 1 of the Theft Act 1986, this crime is when someone ‘dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it’. In order to be found guilty of theft, there has to be an appropriation of property that does not belong to you. In addition, you have to have the intention to permanently deprive another of this property. In other words, if you intentionally shoplift from a shop with goods over £200, this can constitute theft.

It is interesting to note that shoplifting can be more than just pretending to be a customer. It also incorporates those who swap the price tags on items, return clothing that they have worn, eat food going around the store and refund fraud.

The Consequences of Shoplifting

Many people do not think that the consequences for shop lifting are serious. However, it is still against the law and a crime. This means that there will be negative effects from shoplifting. Indeed, it is classed as theft, which can end up with you being arrested and taken into custody. If you are found guilty in court, you may be faced with a fine or be sent to prison for up to six months. This is the case if you shop lifting items that amount to less than £200. If you shoplift goods that are worth more than £200, you can expect the penalties to be higher. This includes a bigger fine and up to seven years in prison if you are found guilty.

Let’s not forget that there are other consequences when you decide to shoplift. For example, you will now have a criminal record. While it may seem like a minor crime, it will go on your record and this can affect your future job prospects. Some companies may not like it that you have a criminal record. In addition, you can be banned from entering certain stores if you are caught shoplifting in them.

Can A Security Guard Make a Citizen’s Arrest?

A lot of major stores will have a security guard at the front door. Of course, their job is to make sure that there are no problems in the store and to prevent shoplifting from going on. You may be wondering; do security guards actually have any powers to apprehend and perform a citizen’s arrest on someone who they think is shoplifting?

The answer is yes; a security guard shares the same powers as the public. This means that they can make a citizen’s arrest under section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Therefore, if they have reasonable grounds to believe that somebody is shoplifting in the store, they can arrest them. They are able to use reasonable force in order to detain the person they suspect of shoplifting. What is deemed as reasonable force will depend on the situation.

However, it is important to note that security guards do not have the power to carry out a search on someone’s property. If you do not give them consent, they are unable to search your property. This may include your bag. But if you leave it somewhere unattended, they are able to search it to make sure that it is nothing dangerous.