The West Australian exclusive

Rockingham magistrate Steven Malley describes bottle shops as ‘war zone’ after repeat shoplifters and burglary

Rachel FennerSound Telegraph
Bottle shops are a war zone with repeat shoplifters, according to a magistrate.
Camera IconBottle shops are a war zone with repeat shoplifters, according to a magistrate. Credit: WA Police

A WA magistrate has described bottle shops as a war zone due to the “unrelenting battle” they are facing against repeat shoplifting offenders.

Magistrate Steven Malley lamented their plight as he blasted repeat shoplifter Reginald Jack Coomer at Rockingham Magistrates Court on April 12.

Coomer was sentenced to 10 months in prison for burglary and fined $1700 for three counts of stealing.

The court was told Coomer stole three bottles of Jack Daniel’s, three bottles of Jim Beam, 10 bottles of Jim Beam white label and a bottle of tequila from three Dan Murphy’s stores on three occasions.

Coomer also admitted to smashing a window to gain entry to Aldi Rockingham on March 6 and smashing a display case to steal bottles of liquor.

Mr Malley said Coomer had harmed the community “unabated” and it was a “warzone now in bottle shops”.

“People walk in and take armfuls of liquor and they have to take it,” he said.

Liquor Stores Association of WA chief executive Peter Peck said realistically bottle shops were “not a warzone”.

“It’s a well-known fact, amongst people that tend to commit these types of crimes, that the Endeavor group, which is BWS and Dan Murphy’s, have a don’t intervene policy, so they just walk in and know they won’t be confronted,” he said.

“It’s to keep the staff safe and that’s fine. But the problem is that (shoplifters) become very sure of themselves because they know no one’s going to stop them and so they become cocky.

“So it sort of starts to get out of hand.”

The LSAWA is supportive of tough new laws cracking down on people who assault retail workers, which were introduced to State Parliament in February.

These laws would see people who assault retail workers facing up to seven years in prison.

Repeat shoplifters would also face jail time under the proposed changes.

The LSAWA would like to see these changes apply to people for a first offence, not a third.

“I think the first time you come up before a magistrate for stealing, if it’s food they should refer you to an economic counsellor that can show how you can feed your family without stealing,” Mr Peck said.

“If it’s alcohol, they need to go to rehab to deal with the addiction. If they’re stealing just for sh*ts and giggles, then there’s a mental health problem.

“So they’ve got to be dealt with on the first offence and given the opportunity to reform.”

Mr Peck said he also wanted bottle shop owners and managers to be classified as “crowd controllers” so they could detain people for police without committing an offence themselves.

“If an offender knows that if I go in there, there’s a chance that this guy is going to hang on to me for the police, he’s going to go somewhere else,” he said.

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