Time is up for cable thefts after changes to the law

Power cables in Rossington that have collapsed due to a metal theft.
Power cables in Rossington that have collapsed due to a metal theft.

CABLE thieves – your time is up. That’s the message from British Transport Police which has welcomed the news that legislative change is on the way.

Changes to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act will outlaw all cash transactions at metal recycling yards across England and Wales.

The legislative changes will also see a significant increase in fines for those dealers who fail to abide by the rules.

BTP Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther, also the Association of Chief Police Officers lead for metal theft, said: “For some time police forces and colleagues across several industries have called for tougher legislation in respect of metal theft.

“The revision of the LASPO Act will provide us with the first significant change in metal recycling legislation since 1964.

“The measures introduced will seriously curtail the market for stolen metal as there will now be a clear audit trail back to those bringing commodities into recycling yards – and severe sanctions for those who step out of line.

The warning, and legislative change, comes as BTP announced its participation in the latest, national, Metal Theft Day of Action (11 October) and revealed cable thefts on the railway have dropped by more than 50 per cent.

Nationally, between April and October, there were 710 (51 per cent) fewer thefts of cable from the railway than in 2011.

In the North East Area cable theft has dropped by 66 per cent, from 512 to 180 offences.

Detective Inspector Stuart Mellish said: “The reductions seen in the past six months have been remarkable.

“Clearly initiatives such as Operation Tornado, in conjunction with better education for scrap dealers and improved joint-working with industry (including sharing of best practice and intelligence), are having an effect.

“The significant reductions mean that fewer people are having their rail journeys disrupted as a result of cable theft and thieves are having less impact on the lives of communities.

“But there is no room for complacency and there is still much to be done.

“We will continue to champion and support operations designed to tackle the problem and will further develop our links with partners such as Network Rail,

BT and the Environment Agency to gain a better understanding of who still presents a risk and what can be done to tackle the issues.”

It is hoped that this latest day of action, coupled with the announcement of tougher legislation, will finally drive home the message that metal theft will no longer pay.

DCC Crowther added: “Time is up for those thieves who still see metal as a viable target and continue to steal from our infrastructure and communities.

“The day of action, on 11 October, will see police and partners across the UK taking positive action against thieves, paying visits to scrap metal recyclers to remind them of their responsibilities and drive home the message that metal theft is socially unacceptable.”

Phil Verster, Route Managing Director for Network Rail’s London North East Route, added: “Rail passengers in the north east and Yorkshire have suffered at the hands of metal thieves for too long. Working with the BTP we have invested £millions protecting the railway and prosecuting thieves. While we are having some success driving down the number of crimes, we need full reform of the law which crushes the market for stolen metal to make a long term difference.

“The legal change in the LASPO act is a welcome first step and we continue to support the bill before Parliament which is seeking to fully reform the law. This bill should include a legal requirement for sellers to provide proof of identification and for metal recyclers to be fully licensed and to keep detailed records which are subject to regular audit.”