QUEENSLAND shopkeepers are demanding the right to arm themselves with clubs, Tasers and capsicum spray to fight back against violent robbers. Fed up with being used as a ready source of cash for criminals, business owners want the law changed so they can guard their shops against thugs without fear of being charged.
Attacks against defenceless shopkeepers have become more violent, including the recent stabbing of a Brisbane shop assistant. Retailers Association executive director Scott Driscoll said people who entered businesses with the intent of holding them up should have no rights.
"Any perpetrator leaves their civil liberties at the door and that should be enshrined in legislation," he said. "The bottom line is there should be no threat to a business owner or retailer if they do use reasonable force to defend themselves."
The retail manager for bottle shop owners the Prentiss Group, Frank Craig, said he believed retailers should be able to keep clubs, Tasers or capsicum spray under the counter to deter criminals.
"The message (to retailers) at the moment is give it away, give it up and, the way that the laws are, people are actually afraid to have a crack — they know they can be charged," he said.
Mr Craig's son Steve was stabbed while trying to fend off an armed robber at a Redbank bottle shop last month.
"You should be able to belt them and knock them unconscious and not be charged, and if you clobber them across the head and they die, tough," Mr Craig said.
He said for retailers to follow police advice and do as offenders asked was simply creating "soft targets".
Vince Dorazio from the Cairns City Night Owl store said capsicum spray or Tasers would assist retailers confronted by violent offenders.
"I've just come off two years of the graveyard shift and the main reason I did was because of the increasing violence," he said.
A spokesman for Attorney-General Kerry Shine said the Government was not considering changing the law to offer greater protection to retailers.
"If someone has taken matters into their own hands it would be up to police if they are charged with an offence," the spokesman said. "If they are charged with an offence they can raise mitigating circumstances such as self-defence, as a defence to their charge."
Opposition spokesman Rob Messenger said more incentives were needed from governments to help retailers 'crime-proof' their business.
"We're the methamphetamine capital of Australia and criminals are becoming more and more desperate. It's a big issue that we need to address together with retailers and police," Mr Messenger said.
Criminal justice expert Rick Sarre said laws already existed for civilians to use "reasonable force" to defend themselves or make a citizen's arrest when a crime was in progress.
"The shopkeepers are just grandstanding," Professor Sarre said. "It's dreadful we live in a society where we have people who take money [Steal] from shops but the answer is not to arm employees. Criminals are desperate and will simply up the ante."
Last week staff and patrons of Fortitude Valley's Jubilee Hotel combined to successfully detain and disarm a man prowling through the premises.
Chef John Maguire and gaming attendant Pania Goldsmith said people were becoming less tolerant of criminals.
"It's got to the point where you know police are so busy and they can't be everywhere, so people are going to take matters into their own hands," Mr Maguire said.
Ms Goldsmith said:
"Our only concern in this instance was the safety of our patrons, we didn't think about ourselves."
Police said each situation had to be judged on its own merits according to the weapons and number of people involved.