We need another way to tackle stealing caused by desperation

Rising numbers of “desperate” customers are leaving shops, restaurants and petrol stations without paying, as the cost of living crisis bites.
And while crimes of making off without payment have not yet hit pre-pandemic levels – there were 848 offences in Dorset in the year ending March 2020 – it is feared that many may turn to this type of offending through desperation.
This is theft where the person knows on-the-spot payment is expected for goods or services supplied, but they nevertheless leave without paying.
Leaving a restaurant without paying the bill, refuelling a car and driving off, leaving a taxi without paying, or even failing to scan items in a shopping basket through a self-service till – in many cases these are not just deliberate attempts to defraud, but stealing in desperation to feed a family.
Are they guilty (yes) or should their ‘crime’ be punished by fines (no) or imprisonment (double no).
I am fortunate my mortgage was paid off 20 years ago and we have learned to live within our means. And we have thick jumpers and fluffy blankets.
But if my choice was stealing or letting the kids starve, you know darn well what I’d do.
I read that average household disposable incomes have dropped by £160.84 per month compared to last year. The article blamed sharp increases in spending on essentials including rent, groceries, transport costs and utility bills.
Charities have warned that millions face a stark choice between eating and heating their homes this winter, with inflation expected to rise above 18 per cent and energy bills now predicted to hit £2,500 per year since the ‘cap’ has been raised.

On the subject of which, what’s the point of a ‘price cap’ if it keeps on being lifted as the prices go up? Was it not supposed to protect us from rising prices?
And how does the Bank of England expect to control inflation when it relentlessly increases the rates which directly affect our mortgages and loans – which fuels rather than inhibits inflation?
Mortgage rates are quick to go up when the base rate rises, but not so quick to go down when it falls. This governmental interference with the economy is a sack of wool being used to pull over our eyes and conceal their inability to solve the problem: we are being ‘fleeced’.
But that is by no means the limit of governmental interference in our lives; look at the badly-thought-out new Highway Code.
It’s not a legal document and many of its rules are not official highway laws. It contains 307 regulations; contravention of many of these can give rise to penalties. Much of the code is actually supported by laws and it is easy to tell which ones, because they use the explicit terms ‘must’ or ‘must not’.
There are more than 10 million drivers in the UK who are over 70 years old. Your licences won’t be automatically renewed when you reach 70. Together with your GP, you should have regular check-ups to see if you are still up for the demands of the road.
There is no upper age limit for driving a car. However, all drivers have to renew their driving licence when they reach 70 and every three years from then on.
The renewal form will be sent to you automatically by the Driver Vehicle Licence Agency (DVLA) 90 days before your 70th birthday. You can also renew your driving licence online for free any time from 90 days before your 70th birthday.
A new rule affects how road users should behave towards pedestrians. The rule is aimed at drivers, motorbike riders, horse riders and cyclists.
It states: “At a junction you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which, or from which, you are turning.”
So if you are turning into a road and there is a pedestrian waiting to cross, you no longer have right of way as the vehicle driver. Instead, you should wait for them to cross before carrying on. This rule also states you will be expected to let a pedestrian cross in front of you in slow moving traffic. Did you know this? And now for the really stupid bits…
Cyclists are “advised” to take care when overtaking pedestrians and horses by slowing down and using their bell.
Cyclists should try to ride in the centre of their lane so they are more visible on quiet roads and on the approach to junctions.
Cyclists are advised to leave enough space for drivers to overtake them safely, especially on busier roads.
Motorists should leave at least 1.5m when overtaking cyclists and 2m for horse riders. If motorists are travelling faster than 30mph, though, they should allow more room.
This applies on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions with the aim of improving cyclists’ visibility. On faster roads cyclists should ride at least 0.5 metres from the kerb.
There is also updated guidance for people cycling in groups. While they can ride two abreast, they have a responsibility to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake by moving into single file or stopping when necessary.
Yet 1.5 metres will put you right into the oncoming lane. Totally impractical and almost impossible on the narrow roads in Purbeck.
Cue for even more cries of execration from horse riders and cyclists … but we all use the roads, we must all work together to make them safe, and that’s about common sense and courtesy rather than rules and regulations.
But don’t forget, this column is ‘telling it like it is’ and not ‘telling it how it should be’. There isn’t enough room for that.

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