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Crackdown on war memorial theft

Unscrupulous metal thieves who steal from war memorials will soon face tough new penalties, crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne warned today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

From next month powers will take effect to stop cash paid for metal and give the police stronger powers to target rogue traders.

Days before the nation marks remembrance Sunday, the minister visited a war memorial site in Erith, Kent, to learn about the devastating impact of metal thieves on the local community.

Jeremy Browne said:

‘These thieves show an utter disregard for the memory of the courageous men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

‘The government is determined to stamp out this illegal trade, which in recent years has cast a shadow over remembrance Sunday for bereaved families.

‘That is why we are reforming the scrap metal industry to support legitimate dealers and tighten the net around those who flout the rules.’

Last month the war memorials trust announced there has been an encouraging reduction in the number of thefts from war memorials over the past year by two thirds, but warned that there is still a worrying number taking place.

War memorial trust’s director Frances Moreton said:

‘It is always distressing when attacks on war memorials take place but particularly so at this time of year when communities gather for their remembrance services and the importance of memorials and the names on them are so poignant.

‘We are of course delighted to see that the number of theft cases reported to us has reduced significantly compared to this time last year. We are encouraged by this reduction but one theft case remains one too many so there is still a problem and we will continue to work with communities to offer advice to prevent future incidents.’

Following his visit to Erith war memorial, the minister visited a local scrap yard where he met representatives from the british transport police and European metal recycling (EMR) - one of the world’s largest metal recycling companies - to discuss what more can be done to tackle metal theft, as well as the forthcoming implementation of a new law to prohibit scrap metal dealers trading in cash.

The minister added:

‘The scrap metal dealer’s bill which, the government supports, will build on the legislative action we have already taken by allowing the closure of unlicensed premises.

‘New laws must be supported by effective enforcement. That is why I welcome the success by the police in bringing thieves to justice. We are now seeing significant reductions in metal crime across the UK.’

The scrap metal dealer’s bill was tabled by Richard Ottaway MP and is expected to receive parliamentary approval in the new year.

The bill is in addition to a dedicated £5 million provided to the metal theft taskforce and a number of recent legislative changes to tackle metal theft, which include:

  • banning all scrap metal dealers from trading in cash, removing the ‘no questions asked’ cash payments which help metal thieves and rogue dealers;
  • increasing each of the financial penalties under the existing regulation of the scrap metal sector;
  • giving the police new powers of entry to tackle illegal trading in metal yards.

Theses changes will take effect on the 3 December.

Notes to editors

1. The home office took initial legislative measures through the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders act 2012. These measures will come into effect on 3 December.

2. While it is difficult to know the exact cost of metal theft, we know there are roughly 1,000 metal thefts a week which costs the country at least £220 million each year.

3. Guidance for scrap metal dealers to implement the prohibition on cash payments is available on the home office website (see: The guidance sets out which methods of payment are legal as well as providing information on what records should be kept once a payment for metal has been made.

4. The war memorials trust welcomes a fall of two thirds from 2011 to 2012 (40 thefts or attempted thefts in 2011 to 14 in 2012). This relates to only the memorials represented by this organisation. The figures do not include other heritage buildings and churches. For more information on this please see:

Published 8 November 2012