ANZIO Digital Watchdog’s Heavy Metal Message

by Tim Barnes-Clay and Baron Halpenny.
Date: 01 January 2012

Watchdog’s Heavy Metal Message - image by Chris Chidsey - Lincolnshire Magazine -

The theft of metal from farms and rural businesses has grown to epidemic proportions according to landowners in the East Midlands who have now thrown their weight behind a Private Member’s Bill which will attempt to thwart the sale of stolen metal.

“Scrap metal is currently big business and it’s no longer restricted to the theft of lead from the church roof,” said Andrew Shirley, leader of Northamptonshire-based rural watchdog, the CLA.

“Now it’s overhead cables, copper of all kinds - which affect the telecommunications and electricity supply industries - and even barbed wire and other fencing has been stripped out for the value of the scrap.”

Lancashire MP Graham Jones brought his Metal Theft (Protection) Bill before the House of Commons recently and the CLA, says it offers a solution to the problem.

Mr Jones says that the reason this type of crime is flourishing is because the regulatory framework surrounding metal recycling is so weak and that, in combination with the elevated international price of metal, effectively creates an incentive to steal.

“Farmyards and rural businesses have always been a prime target for robberies and landowners are currently suffering an epidemic of metal theft,” said Mr Shirley.

“Mr Jones’s planned changes to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 and his other proposals are essential if this blight is to be ended quickly and effectively.”

Mr Jones’s Metal (Protection) Bill proposes six changes:

1) Amend the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 and replace the current registration scheme with a robust licensing regime, with scrap metal dealers paying a licence fee to fund the regulation of the licence.

2) Allow property obtained through theft to be regarded as criminal assets - that would allow the provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to apply.

3) Grant police authorities the power to search and investigate all premises owned and operated by a scrap metal dealer and to close scrap metal dealers where criminally obtained materials are discovered.

4) Restrict the trade in scrap metals to cashless payments and introduce a requirement that scrap metal must not be sold or processed until payments have been cleared. Photo identification and CCTV should be mandatory to identify sellers of scrap and their vehicles.

5) Magistrates should have powers to add licence restrictions and prevent closed yards from reopening.

6) Amend The Theft Act and related Acts so that suspects caught should be charged and if found guilty, sentenced in such a way that is proportionate to the consequences of the crime, not the scrap metal value.

“The true cost of the theft is more than the value of the items taken due to lost production time, repairing damage caused, livestock straying due to gates left open or fencing taken down, so we support this effort to bring about a change in the law,” said Mr Shirley.

Potential Killers

The seriousness and sheer revulsion at these thefts cannot be overstated as they not only affect peoples property, but also desecrate churches, monuments and memorials, especially War Memorials.

The theft of metal affects electricity, phones, railways, and even manhole covers have been stolen leaving death traps for motorbikes and cycles. Putting peoples lives at risk making them not just thieves but potential killers.

The theft of 100 metres of copper cable from a back up generator at Llandough Hospital, in Penarth, south Wales, last year resulted in at least two breast cancer patients missing vital operations.

Back up generators are absolutely crucial to hospitals because they guarantee life and death services remain running if there is a power cut.


The Diocese of Lincoln, suffering a lot of lead theft from Churches is encouraging people to sign the E-petition calling for a change in the terms and conditions under which payment is made to vendors for metal they want to sell.

To sign the petition created by Donovan Bailey Click Here!

It closes on: 08/08/2012

The CLA is also asking its members in the region for case studies of metal theft to help in its lobbying. Examples can be sent to:

Salus populi suprema lex – the public safety is the supreme law.

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