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New scrap metal law comes into force today

The new law clamping down on rogue scrap metal dealers, which has been warmly welcomed by the rail and communications industries, comes into force today. It is hoped it will make it much more difficult for cable thieves to sell on stolen metal and cable.

The new Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which replaces the 1964 Act, consolidates dealers and motor salvage operators under one licensing regime, makes it tougher to get a licence and allows councils to revoke it, and requires sellers to provide ID at the point of sale and have it recorded by the dealer.

It also makes it easier for police and councils to inspect sites, raises the level of fines that can be issued for offences, and creates a central public register (hosted by the Environment Agency) of all licensed dealers.

Although the impact of cable and metal theft on the rail network has been reduced since its peak, in the first half of this financial year (up to 14 September 2013) there has been 95 incidents of cable theft affecting train performance, causing 30,928 delay minutes and an estimated compensation cost of £1,053,649. This does not include the cost of staff time to repair and replace the cable, replacement cable itself and the cost of mitigation measures such as security patrols and investment in new technology.

Neil Henry, head of operations and performance at Network Rail, said: “Rail passengers and essential freight deliveries are still suffering at the hands of metal thieves who target our network. While we have made significant progress in reducing the impact of these crimes, disruption is still at an unacceptably high level.

“We have maintained for some time that legal reform was sorely needed in order to support our own efforts to prevent thefts and welcome the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act.”

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther of British Transport Police added: “Today marks a very significant milestone in the fight against metal thieves. The Act demands a greater level of awareness and responsibility from traders, ensuring they verify who they are doing business with, but it also protects law abiding recyclers from unscrupulous traders.

“It is vital that scrap metal traders are aware of the changes, including the new licensing regulations. Metal thieves cause misery for thousands of people, whether targeting the rail network, power cables or telecommunications and today’s changes signal the introduction of a more robust licensing scheme to be monitored by local authorities.”

But Tim Guest, writing for BT, noted: “While these measures will help to make it harder for criminals to gain cash for stolen metal, and will deter unscrupulous scrap metal dealers from turning a blind eye to where metal offered for sale has come from, on their own they will have a limited effect. That has been the advice offered to Government by members of the cross-industry campaign against metal theft of which we are a leading voice.

“We’ll continue to do all we can to reduce the number of attacks on our network and mitigate the impact on our customers. One development we’ve introduced recently is a new network ‘burglar alarm’ called RABIT (Rapid Assessment BT Incident Tracker) – and it’s already having a positive impact. RABIT launched at the end of March and covers the whole of the UK. It can instantly detect illegal tampering anywhere on our network and send an alert with precise location details to the police. This means police can get to the scene of incidents much more quickly and is enabling arrests to be made. Since its introduction, average monthly arrest figures are up 58% compared to last year.

“We won’t rest until cable theft is a thing of the past and no longer poses a threat to the livelihood and wellbeing of our customers. While that may still be some way off, the concerted actions being taken by us, our industry partners and Government, mean that the momentum towards it has increased significantly.”

The Local Government Association has produced guidance giving more details on the new law and licensing regime.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Michael   21/10/2013 at 11:17

I would like to thank all those involved in the new scrap law Do you really think this is going to stop theft of wire and if you do you have got to be a thick as the greedy government is. I work in the scrap industry and I am going to suffer badly This will push unemployment up and just make wire worth more ( how can the government justify the price off the new licence It's a f - - cling rip off the only people that suffer is the good Hard working ones and the theives and the them in government are going to to richer out off this Plus the price the rail way charges they get there money back 10 times over,

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