As the cost of living crisis deepens, should people be allowed to steal food if they can’t afford to pay for it?
According to Andy Cooke who is the new Chief Inspector of the Constabulary in England and Wales, police officers should use their “discretion” when dealing with such cases.
He insisted that he wasn’t giving carte blanche for people to go out shoplifting. But not surprisingly, his comments have sparked considerable debate about whether some people should be let off on grounds of financial desperation.
Home Office minister Kit Malthouse is adamant that the law is the law and should be upheld. Police should not be turning a blind eye to shoplifting, he says. He adds that Mr Cooke’s claim that crime will automatically rise as more people fall into poverty, was “old-fashioned thinking”.
Kit would know. Old-fashioned thinking is something Tories, like Mr Malthouse, do awfully well. As the economic crisis has deepened they’ve collectively shown their compassion and grip on reality by suggesting that people struggling to cope should work longer hours, learn to make gruel and put on an extra jumper. For now, they’ve stopped short of telling parents to send their children up chimneys.
That said Mr Malthouse does have a point about the law being applied without fear or favour.
For how do you police discretionary policing? How does the officer on the scene judge whether the shoplifter is genuinely in despair or is just a chancer on the make?
It’s not as though they can do on-the-spot means testing.
And, as ever, there’s the old question of ‘where do you draw the line?’ If nicking a few spuds can be overlooked, will the same leeway be given to nicking the air-fryer to cook them in?
Shoplifters, as we well know, are not always persons in dire need. Thieving tends to be a very organised business as many small local businesses know to their cost.
Mr Cooke’s comments suggest he envisages a new type of offender; distressed little old ladies and gents, single parents, unemployed people, all formerly law abiding citizens but now caught trying to juke out past the checkout with a packet of mince and a loaf of Veda.
It’s patronising and it’s just plain wrong to assume that honest people who’ve never broken the law in their lives and who would see theft as immoral, would suddenly tip into crime however desperate they feel.
Besides, unless they’re going to be shoplifting week in, week out it’s not going to make much material difference. A one-off grocery heist will soon run out.
As for the government, it seems to have run out of ideas on how to sort the cost of living crisis.
But could more be done by other major players too? Should the big food retailers be doing more to take up some of the slack?
The leading supermarket chains all had a very good pandemic. Their profits soared to dizzying (some would say nauseating) heights.
They’re always telling us about how they’re putting us first and every little helping and their shopping trolley contents being cheaper than the one from the store further along the road.
But the fact is they’re all still raking it in.
Why don’t they show some of that love they’re always talking about and dip into those enormous profits and further reduce the price of essential foods?
Perhaps they feel they’re doing enough already with their food bank collection efforts of which they’re very proud and which are, of course, intended to make them look public spirited, giving and charitable.
However, this overlooks the small issue that the food being placed in these food bank collection trolleys is mainly donated by the customers.
I’ve always thought it a genius marketing idea that the supermarkets encourage their customers to buy extra from them to give to charities thus, not only making them look good, but further boosting their profits.
Interesting legal point — if a needy person were to lift items from the food bank trolley in the shop, would that qualify as theft?
The government needs to do more to help, yes. But right across the board, big business could be pitching in too, to help alleviate some of the financial pain.
People need practical help not condescending talk.
The dismissive attitude to the poor used to be ‘let them eat cake.’
I’m not sure it’s progress that these days it’s ‘let them shoplift it’.
As if we don’t have enough to worry about in the world right now, along comes monkey pox. A distant cousin of smallpox, it can be treated. So far, the spread of the outbreak is fairly small — although we all know how quickly that could change. The pictures of the symptoms are gruesome. Patients covered in small lumps like bubble wrap under the skin. As the name suggests, it’s thought to have originated in monkeys. So the pangolin is off the hook for this one. Others, not so lucky. There may have to be a new vaccine rollout. Bill Gates will be delighted to hear that.
You have to hand it to Tom Cruise, he’s pulled out all the stops to promote his new movie Top Gun: Maverick. Some of these stops have involved royalty. He was at the Queen’s Jubilee celebration at Windsor along with Alan Titchmarsh — a joint presenting combo whose likes we will possibly never see again. Then he was snapped at the London premiere holding the Duchess of Cambridge’s hand to assist her in climbing a few steps. At the Cannes film festival he was greeted by eight French fighter jets zooming overhead. Top Gun indeed. They could be doing with Tom in Ukraine.
Pics have been released of Sir Kenneth Branagh filming scenes for a new production about the PM’s early days in power, left. With prosthetics and makeup and wig he makes a startlingly believable Boris. He looks more like Boris than even Boris sometimes does. Presumably the star has also taken lessons in dress dishevelment and general bumbling. I doubt Boris is going to be overly bothered about how he’s portrayed. He’s immodest enough to know that imitation, especially very, very good imitation, is still the sincerest form of flattery.