Metal thieves jailed - Kings Langley

22/08/2012

Two men were sentenced to eight months each in prison after pleading guilty at St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday, 14 August 2012, to attempted metal theft.

23-year-old Thomas Clayden from Stobarts Hill, in Cranleigh, Surrey, and 20-year-old Mark Clayden from Glebe Road, also in Cranleigh, were arrested during the early hours of 15 February.  They were caught with cutting equipment in Hempstead Road, Kings Langley, by a patrolling police officer, attempting to steal BT cable from inside a man hole.

The case was investigated by officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary's Operation Devon - the force's initiative to tackle metal theft, Dacourm's Local Crime Unit, and the County Prolific Offenders Team.

The cost of the damage to the cable had been estimated at over £7000. Although the cable was not live at the time of the offence, and services were not disrupted as a result, the damage caused was substantial and the cables are now unusable.

The judge commented that the potential damage to local infrastructure could have had an extremely serious effect on local people's everyday lives. The seriousness of this threat, caused as a result of the Clayden's actions, is reflected in the sentences they received.

Baljit Ubhey OBE, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "We have worked closely with Hertfordshire police since this investigation was launched.

"Metal theft is far from a victimless crime. It undermines and damages homes, churches, memorials and businesses, whilst burdening taxpayers who are forced to fund, directly or indirectly, costly replacements.

"Metal theft is a serious problem as criminals seek to take advantage of the increased prices they can get for scrap metal. Because of the prevalence of these offences there are strong public interest reasons for prosecuting, whether the amounts stolen are large or small.

"Victims or witnesses of potential metal theft play a crucial role in helping us to prosecute and I urge them to report these crimes to the police as soon as possible. The sooner the police are able to act, the more likely it is that they will be able to gather the evidence we need to prosecute.

"This case should serve as a warning to any criminals who are intending to commit metal theft crime; police and prosecutors are taking a robust and proactive approach to these offences and will continue to work closely to bring those responsible to court."

Detective Chief Inspector Liz Hanlon, who led on Operation Devon at the time of the investigation, said: "This investigation has been a great team effort and I am really pleased with the outcome of the sentencing.  I hope its severity serves as a deterrent to any would-be metal thieves, particularly as these men had no previous convictions.

In Hertfordshire we take metal theft extremely seriously and through Operation Devon will relentlessly pursue offenders who steal metal to make a quick profit from others' loss. Similar thefts in the past have caused major disruptions and damage to infrastructure, often at great cost to local businesses and tax payers, and we will come down hard on anyone caught committing this form of crime."

David Lloyd, Chairman of the Police Authority, said: "We have made catching those responsible for metal theft a high priority.  This sentence is a clear signal that if you commit this crime in Hertfordshire, the police will work tirelessly to catch you and then seek the full force of the criminal penalties for this despicable crime.

"Stealing communication cables puts lives at risk through damaging vital systems used by hospitals, emergency services and the most vulnerable in our county.  The Police Authority will continue to support the Constabulary in pursuing these dangerous criminals."

Members of the public can help in the fight against metal thieves by reporting any suspicious behaviour in their neighbourhoods to police via the non-emergency number 101, as well as ensuring they lock their sheds securely and lock away any tools and bikes after use. If a crime is on-going, dial 999 immediately.