Metal thieves walk free from court following operation at Barking scrap merchant

The metal thieves were each given suspended sentences at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Thursday, Februa

The metal thieves were each given suspended sentences at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Thursday, February 21 - Credit: Archant

A gang of metal thieves walked free from court after pleading guilty to handling large quantities of stolen metal at a Barking scrap merchant.

The foursome including David Dutton, Barry Collins, Mark Claxton and Billy Harman were each handed suspended sentences. They were arrested after buying £10,000 worth of copper cable from undercover Essex police officers.

Dutton, 65, runs Barking scrap merchant LT Mumford in Gascoigne Road. He was given a nine month suspended jail sentence following the hearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court yesterday.

Collins, of Doveshouse Mead in Barking, was handed a three-month suspended sentence. Dutton’s grandson, Billy Harman, 25, was given a six month prison term, also suspended.

The conviction was the result of a joint approach to tackling metal theft, said an Essex police spokesperson. They described metal theft as “a blight on society”, adding: “Its impact goes far beyond the cost of replacing stolen cabling.”

They added: “The theft of cable and wiring can disrupt train services, leave customers without internet access or landline connections and can also affect communications for the emergency services.”

Dutton, of Romford, Essex, has previously admitted four counts of possession of criminal property and was jailed for 16 months at Basildon Crown Court in April 2009.

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The gang’s method of operation was exposed by a BBC Panorama investigation into scrap metal theft in 2011 in which a reporter was directed to an unregistered scrap metal yard in Essex run by Claxton.

The 54-year-old of Grays, Essex, was given a 12-month sentence suspended and ordered to pay a £3,000 fine.

Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police, Environment Agency and British Telecom were involved in the operation that led to the gang’s arrest.

“We are particularly pleased that this operation has identified and tackled two yards which were operating way beyond the limits of the law,” said an Essex Police spokesperson.

“We will continue to work with our partner agencies to identify metal thieves and pursue them through the court.”

The Post spoke with an employee at LT Mumford today and were told: “The stuff wasn’t stolen. That is why it got chucked out of court with a suspended sentence.”

Asked if they were going to continue trading a spokesman for the company confirmed it would.