The Daily Mail today reports that Labour MP David Lammy believes the police should 'go soft' on criminals stealing from wealthy retail chains.
The Mail story, headlined "Give shoplifters softer sentences if they target top stores…" claimed that a new report written by Lammy calls for thieves to get lighter sentences if they target large retail chains, rather than corner shops.
Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson joined in the attack on Lammy this morning telling LBC radio that: 'If he is seriously saying that we should discount or minimise shoplifting from swish, posh shops then I think he is totally wrong because it is a crime wherever it is committed.
"Tesco’s have got oodles of money – or actually slightly less than they used to – but it doesn’t mean it’s right to nick stuff from anywhere."
But did Lammy actually claim it was "alright" or at least less bad, to steal from these shops? First of all, let's take a look at the recommendation the Mail picked out for their story.
It calls for the anti-social behavior, crime and policing act to be amended so that the impact on the victim is taken into account rather than just the value of the items stolen.
It adds that currently "the impact of a £150 theft, for example, would be far greater on an independent corner shop than on Fortnum and Mason."
It is this sentence which the Mail uses to justify their claim that Lammy is calling for "softer sentences" for shoplifting from posh stores.
However, a closer look at the report suggest that this is highly misleading.Rather than calling for softer sentences for shoplifters, the central purpose of Lammy's report is actually to call for tougher action against all those who steal small items from shops.
The current legislation states that the theft of all items below £200 should be treated as a summary offence. Rather than downplay those offences, Lammy is actually calling for these low-value thefts to be taken more seriously.
Here's the section of the act Lammy refers to.
Speaking to Politics.co.uk after the launch, Lammy insisted his recommendations had been taken out of context.
"In 2014, effectively the government changed the rules and said that if you shoplift and if the value is less than £200 it should not be deemed serious. I have heard a lot of evidence from independent retailers that this is very problematic because for them 40, 50, 60 pounds day after day, that really does effect their bottom lines.
He attacked the Mail's reporting as "spurious".
"I can't account for those papers who have spuriously suggested [I had claimed] that it is okay to steal from Fortnum and Masons. It is not okay to steal from anybody and the whole thrust of this report is can we take theft more seriously whoever it is from and I can't underline that enough."
The central thrust of Lammy's report is that low-level property crime has been"effectively decriminalised" and that the police should be tougher on it.
To somehow suggest he is arguing the opposite is clearly misleading.