Shipley MP wants tougher sentences before he backs new scrap metal Bill (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Shipley MP wants tougher sentences before he backs new scrap metal Bill
Shipley MP Philip Davies has claimed that a new Parliamentary bill to crack down on unscrupulous scrap metal dealers will “not make a blind bit of difference” unless it comes with tougher sentences in the courts.
Mr Davies spoke out after the Bishop of Bradford urged all the district’s MPs to vote for The Metal Theft and Scrap Metal Dealers Bill to outlaw the selling of scrap metal for cash to help stop churches being plundered by thieves.
The Diocese is calling on Telegraph & Argus readers to put pressure on their MP to support the proposed legislation as it reaches a vital stage in the House of Commons next week, describing the theft of metal from churches as a “huge issue”.
The Bishop, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, said: “The theft of metal from the roof brings other consequent losses due to rain ingress damaging the contents – and sometimes irreplaceable artefacts.
“As well as the inconvenience and financial burden, it causes significant distress, and as we approach Remembrance Day we need to remember that all our church monuments are vulnerable.”
Mr Davies said that the Government had already outlawed cash payments for scrap metal under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which is due to come into force on December 3.
However, the ban on cash payments does not apply to itinerant collectors under the new law. Now Mr Davies has been sent a letter by the Bishop urging him to change his mind.
The letter states: “This Bill has been the result of two years’ careful consideration by the Home Office with the police, the scrap metal trade and the Church of England, all of whom are now convinced that the measures it contains will make a substantial difference and will curb this crime which has caused such damage to our churches and war memorials – as well of course to the infrastructure of the railways and communications’ industries.
“It is not legislation that has been entered into lightly and if it fails at this point the consequences will be very damaging and seriously frustrate both law enforcement and the trade.
“I ask you to reconsider your position.”
However, when contacted by the Telegraph & Argus yesterday Mr Davies said the Bill, which was put forward by Conservative MP Richard Ottaway, would not work unless it included tougher sentencing for illegal scrap dealers.
He said: “It is the worst kind of gesture politics. This is saying that if you do not support this Bill, you do not want to do anything about metal thefts. I do want to do something about it but the only way of doing that is by having proper sentences. This Bill says nothing about sentencing.
“People can already go to court for this but get derisory sentences. I have said to Richard Ottaway that if he puts something in the Bill to give people proper, serious sentences, then I would support it. Otherwise, it will not make a blind bit of difference.”
Mr Davies said the Bill, if it becomes law, would only apply to England and Wales, meaning dealers would be able to sell scrap metal in Scotland.
He said: “I can’t even see how it would work on a practical level. A lot of the problem is with illegal scrap metal dealers. This will just drive it underground.”
The Archdeacon of Bradford, the Venerable David Lee, said despite latest figures that show some reduction in the level of metal thefts, particularly lead, from a peak two years ago, there was still much to do to. He said: “Thefts continue and years of volunteer labour and care are ruined and huge bills generated for the repair work – sometimes being subject to three and four repeated thefts on the same church building.
“It is vital that people remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police and we are very grateful for the help of neighbours and friends who report anything suspicious.
“Please could your readers support the forthcoming Scrap Metal Dealers’ Bill in Parliament which will make it illegal to trade scrap metal for cash, with no exceptions for itinerant and other traders.
“This will take the incentive to commit metal theft away from the great majority of thieves. Easy access to cash, with no identification, is a great encouragement to crime, especially one where it is hard to secure convictions as it is not easy to prove the origins of the stolen metal.”
Figures show that thefts from churches across the country last year were running at an average of ten a day and the cost to insurers over the last four years has been in excess of £25 million.
Latest figures compiled by Ecclesiastical Insurance show in 2010 claims in the Bradford Diocese cost nearly £70,000, last year the bill was in excess of £60,000 and in 2012 up to the end of last month, claims costing more than £7,000 have been made.
Keighley MP Kris Hopkins said he would look closely at the legislation. He said metal theft – particularly stealing cables – caused huge problems for people across the district. He said: “I have spoken to the big cable companies and the trade unions about how fearful they are of their employees being assaulted and threatened by thieves. If they have not got anywhere to fence this stolen metal, then it may stop the problem.”