New laws will clampdown on scrap metal theft in Barking and Dagenham

Police search a scrap metal yard for stolen goods

Police search a scrap metal yard for stolen goods - Credit: Archant

‘Life-saving’ scrap metal laws have been introduced to stop thieves from causing chaos to vital infrastructure and destroying heritage sites by stealing valuable metals.

Scrap merchant LT Mumford in Gascoigne Road, Barking

Scrap merchant LT Mumford in Gascoigne Road, Barking - Credit: Archant

The new Scrap Metal Dealers Act, which was passed in February this year and amends legislation from the 1960s, requires scrap dealers to be licensed by the local authority or face conviction and a fine.

As the price of metal has risen, thieves have targeted transport and communications networks and even local landmarks for their metal, causing severe disruption to passengers, consumers and residents.

Energy Networks Association chief executive David Smith, welcomed the new laws, hailing them as “life-saving”.

He said: “For too long thieves have been able to damage critical infrastructure and cherished heritage with their dangerous and destructive attacks on our society.

“The laws will make it pointless for thieves to put themselves and others at risk for metal worth a fraction of the cost of the millions of pounds of damage they cause every year.”

He added: “The focus now must be on ensuring no one can get around the progress that has been achieved to modernise the outdated laws.”

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In the same month as the new laws were passed, a gang of scrap metal dealers who worked out of a scrap yard in Barking pleaded guilty to handling large quantities of stolen metal.

The foursome including David Dutton, who runs Barking scrap merchant LT Mumford in Gascoigne Road, walked free from court after being handed suspended sentences.

Metal theft against energy infrastructure alone meant energy networks companies were having to spend more than £12million on additional security measures to combat thieves and damage was costing in excess of £60million a year, Mr Smith added.