Shoplifting is OK if you are vulnerable and hard-pressed, says Yorkshire vicar

A YORKSHIRE vicar has advised hard-pressed members of his flock to fleece retailers by shoplifting. But they should do it only from big stores, the Rev Tim Jones said, and it would probably be best if they did not take any more than they needed.shoplift

Inevitably, says The Times

Some less spiritually enlightened individuals, including North Yorkshire Police, have taken his remarks in entirely the wrong way, assuming that by advising people to shoplift he is in some way encouraging shoplifting.

Jones’ remarks came in his Sunday sermon at the Church of St Lawrence, York, when he said that stealing from large national chains was sometimes the best option open to vulnerable people. It was far better for people desperate during the recession to shoplift than to turn to prostitution, mugging or burglary.

My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift. I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither. I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices. I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need.

He added:

I offer the advice with a heavy heart and wish society would recognise that bureaucratic ineptitude and systematic delay have created an invitation and incentive to crime for people struggling to cope.

Arguing that society had failed the needy, Jones, 41, continued:

My advice does not contradict the Bible’s Eighth Commandment [Thou shalt not steal] because God’s love for the poor and despised outweighs the property rights of the rich. Let my words not be misrepresented as a simplistic call for people to shoplift. Rather, this is a call for our society no longer to treat its most vulnerable people with indifference and contempt. Providing inadequate or clumsy social support is monumental, catastrophic folly.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said:

Shoplifting is a criminal offence and to justify this course of action under any circumstances is highly irresponsible. Turning or returning to crime will only make matters worse. We recognise that some people find themselves in difficult circumstances but support is readily available and must be sought.

Anne McIntosh, the Conservative MP for Vale of York, who has campaigned in Parliament for stronger sentences for shoplifters, admitted that there had been an over-commercialisation of Christmas that encouraged people to spend, but she said:

I cannot condone inciting anyone to commit a criminal offence. Shoplifting is a crime against the whole local community and society.

The British Retail Consortium agreed. A spokesman said:

Shoplifting is wrong and it is not more or less wrong depending on who the victim is. It is the job of our welfare system, which retailers support with the billions they pay each year in tax, to help vulnerable people. There are no excuses for stealing.

Hat Tip Danny J and Marcus