National may back instant fines for shoplifters

National says it's open to supporting a NZ First proposal to let police hand out instant fines to shoplifters.

But it appears leader Simon Bridges hasn't read the Bill, questioning on Monday morning whether a $3 fine for stealing a chocolate bar would be enough.

"The one thing I struggle with, as I understand it the way it works is it's one-and-a-half times immediate fine, what you nick, right? I'm just trying to work out whether that's enough, how that sort of fits," Mr Bridges told The AM Show.

"If you steal a $2 chocolate bar or something, what's that? That's $2.50 actually only, or $3 - You've got to say, is that enough? We'll have a good look at it."

Darroch Ball's Shoplifting (Offence and Penalties) Bill actually specifies the minimum fine would be $150. If the value of the goods stolen is less than $100, the fine would be $150. If it's higher, then it would one-and-a-half times the total value.

Mr Bridges says it sounds like a "reasonable, practical idea that Labour and the Greens won't go along with", and will probably need his party's support to get it over the line.

"I'm not saying we'll definitely support it, it hasn't been to caucus, but I think you know, it sounds practical enough. I think the retailers like it. If they think it will work, well that's probably a good step."

Police Minister Stuart Nash said last year instant fines would be "an elegant solution to a growing problem", saying the present court process was expensive and lengthy.

"We've got to allow police to use their judgement: if it will help the police to be able to issue an instant fine or an infringement notice then let's give them that tool," he told NZME.

Stuart Nash.
Stuart Nash. Photo credit: The AM Show

The Bill, yet to be drawn from the ballot, has the backing of Retail NZ.

"Allowing police to issue an infringement notice like a speeding ticket for petty shoplifting offences will offer a proportionate and sensible way of dealing with the tsunami of crime that is engulfing the retail sector," said spokesman Greg Harford.

"It will ensure that there are real consequences for petty thieves and help break the cycle of crime before shoplifters graduate into perpetrating more serious crimes."

The organisation's 2017 Retail Crime Survey estimated retailers lose $1.1 billion every year to shoplifting.