Desecration and death highlight the need for tough stance on metal theft

For immediate release – Monday 5 November 2012 

This week (9 November) will see the Third Reading in the House of Commons of Richard Ottaway’s Scrap Metal Dealers Bill that will seek to bring in tough but fair reforms to the industry.

Efforts of the police in recent months have delivered results to tackle the crime through tough enforcement and deterrent such as Operation Tornado. However, these resource intensive initiatives are not sustainable in the long term and only legislative change to replace the out of date Steptoe and Son laws of 1964 will suffice.

That is the message being sent by Energy Networks Association (ENA) and MPs as fresh attacks on our nation’s memorials and heritage are matched by the death of individuals engaging in the theft of dangerous electricity cables.

There have been over 4000 incidents of metal theft against the energy networks so far this year and a recent incident this summer saw a young man and his father attempting to steal copper cable from a wooden pole by cutting it down. The young man received fatal electrical burns and his father, also burnt, fled the scene. When being treated in hospital the father initially denied all knowledge of the death of his own son.

Last week, a Second World War memorial plaque was stolen in Brentwood, Essex, just as the nation prepares to remember those who have given their lives in the service of the country on Remembrance Sunday.

ENA Chief Executive David Smith said:

“The continued death of individuals and the risks to innocent people alongside the disgraceful and vile theft of a war memorial, especially at this time of year, show how vital it is that the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill is passed without hindrance next week.

“This is about enshrining effective and fair principles to tackle a dated and ineffective law. It has the support of the industry it will impact on and will deal a tough blow to criminals. If this is not addressed for the long term, sooner or later an innocent life will be lost and questions will be asked of those who stood in the way of it.”

Richard Ottaway MP for Croydon South, said:

“For too long the cash-in-hand and no questions asked culture in the scrap metal industry has allowed criminals to ply their trade under the cloak of anonymity. As a result of this largely unregulated £5.6bn industry – up to £1.5bn of which thrives tax-free because of a lack of honest record keeping – our transport, energy and telecommunications infrastructure is under constant threat.

“Many tributes will be paid to this nation’s heroes who laid down their lives for this country on Remembrance Sunday. This momentous anniversary falls two days after my Bill is debated in the House, when I will wear my poppy with pride and optimism.”

Chris Kelly MP, founder and Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Combating Metal Theft, said:

“Despite the best efforts of the police and the funding behind the Metal Theft Taskforce, this crime continues with despicable and deadly consequences. The impact is felt across society with transport, utility and heritage being attacked. I and the All Party Group strongly support Mr Ottaway’s Bill and are urging our colleagues across Parliament to do the same. The callous and shameful theft of a war memorial serves as a reminder of why this is so necessary.”

The APPG will be meeting on Monday (5 November) with the MPs and Peers, including Baroness Browning — who will be steering the Bill through the House of Lords — who support the Bill to highlight its importance and the Government support to other Parliamentarians.


Notes to editor

ENA represents the ‘wires and pipes’ transmission and distribution network operators for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland.

For further information please contact:

Tim Field MCIPR,
Head of Press and Public Affairs
Energy Networks Association
E: [email protected]
T: +44 (0)207 706 5157
M: +44 (0)7725 372 758
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