Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Metal theft - new legislative changes that will force rogues to pack up or abide by the law

I note last week’s article on itinerant metal thieves plaguing Hyndburn.

As your MP I successfully led the campaign to change the law. The 1964 Act simply wasn’t working. Even under the 1964 Act metal dealers must legally register with the local authority, yet we know that none are registered in Hyndburn and our streets and avenues are plagued by audacious and in too many cases kleptomaniac rogues.

I know that residents have lost radiators, microwaves, washing machines, garage doors and a number of items in recent times – myself included. Too often we see flat back trucks with a driver and an accomplice standing on the back looking over the back alley, climbing in and stealing from people’s yards. In some cases they have raided sheds, robbed any metal they can lay their hands on leaving the yard doors open to anyone to enter. At my grandmother’s house which is currently empty, people are frequently caught around the back and two weeks ago were asked to leave by an off duty policeman after unknowingly at the time, having stolen from the neighbour. I recently stopped a flat back truck collecting metal and asked to see his waste carriers licence and Hyndburn registration number. In return I got a volley of arrogant profanity before he raced off shouting out of the window he knew all about the law and I didn’t. As I and the ENA virtually wrote the new law, the arrogance was an indication of unprofessionalism at best, disregard for the law and other people’s property at worst.

These vans appear to have divided Hyndburn and elsewhere in the UK up into rounds and flagrantly operate outside the law. They hound our neighborhoods and act with impunity and all the national evidence points to itinerant dealers being the main criminal element in explosion of theft of metal.

Having led the campaign to change the law I have subsequently worked with the Police and Hyndburn Council to strengthen the position and to take a tougher approach to rogue collectors. As the article states at my and others request, the police will now begin a series of stop checks ahead of the incoming tougher legisaltion. Currently two of the six new parts of the law have come into force; we now have stiffer sentences and a ban on cash payments which scarp metal dealers are trying to get around – that is until the new Act and the extra powers come into force in October.

Those four remaining elements come into effect in October. We will see greater powers for magistrates and police, a local authority licensing scheme (removing licences where ‘the intention of the law’ is flouted), tougher sentencing guidelines, i.e. consideration for the damage done rather than the lowly scrap value.

From October all the illegal mobile scrap metal collectors (there are none registered under the old 64 Act) will have to appear before local councillors and plead that they are ‘a fit and proper person’ (as will scrap metal yard owners). They will have to pay a licence fee and thanks to my late amendment in Parliament to the new Act, they will have to display a large Hyndburn Council licence plate on all 4 sides of the vehicle so the public can see just who they are and where to report them if necessary. In addition, the public will be able to ask to see their papers before handing over metal and report their licence number to Hyndburn Council and the police for trespass.

I have campaigned for 2 years on this matter and know finally that with these legislative changes we can force these rogues to pack up or show respect and abide by the law.