Thieves cause huge damage to churches

7:00am Wednesday 14th November 2012

By Anika Bourley

More than £300,000 of damage has been caused by thieves stealing metal from churches across the Bradford Diocese in just three years.

Figures from Church Commissioner Tony Baldry highlight the problem places of worship face. According to figures from Ecclesiastical Insurance, who insure the majority of churches in England, from January, 2010, to the end of October this year, 92 claims were submitted totalling £312,003 of repairs to Anglican churches across the district.

A breakdown shows 45 claims were submitted in 2010 for £153,698, falling to 37 claims totalling 141,342 last year. For the first ten months of this year ten claims have been made for £16,963.

Shipley MP Philip Davies, who uncovered the information through parliamentary questioning said: “The figures go to show what damage metal theft does and how much it costs particularly for our local churches.

“The cost has come down dramatically over the last year or so but it is obviously still a shocking crime and does terrible damage to local churches who cannot afford repairs.

“We need to make sure people guilty of metal theft are given a custodial sentence as it is amazing how few people get sent to prison for it. They are stealing from church roofs, railway lines and it is a cost to the public purse.”

Church roofs, railways, telecoms installations, war memorials, street signs, old cars and even manhole covers have been targeted by thieves looking to make money.

Across the country the bill tops £19.6 million in the three year period.

There has also been a significant fall in claims in 2012 compared with the previous year from £9.8 million to the current £3.3 million for the first ten months of this year.

The figures come days after proposed reform of the scrap trade passed a crucial stage in the House of Commons. The Bill includes the requirement of all scrap dealers to hold and display a licence, it would give police and councils the power to close down illegal traders and suspend or remove licenses from those who were found not to be trading properly, and set up a national public register of dealers.

Unlicensed dealers would also face unlimited fines and metal sellers would have to produce ID which would be recorded and kept for two years.

The regulations could expire in five year after Government was forced to compromise from critics including Mr Davies, who said while the measures were not bad, the Bill did not guarantee less theft as a result.

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