Two men sentenced for theft of Henry Moore sculpture


Two men have today, Tuesday, 04 December 2012, been sentenced at St Albans Crown Court to twelve months in custody after pleading guilty to two counts of theft from the Henry Moore Foundation at an earlier hearing.

Liam Hughes, 22, of Coltsfield, Stansted, Essex, and Jason Parker, 19, of Coltsfield, Stansted, Essex, were both charged with two counts of theft of a 'sundial' sculpture and a bronze plinth, which were both stolen from the Henry Moore Foundation in Much Hadham overnight between 10 and 11 July.

Both men pleaded guilty to both charges at a hearing on 12 November. Liam Hughes was sentenced to twelve months in custody and Jason Parker was sentenced to twelve months in a Young Offenders Institute.

Officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary recovered the sculpture and plinth after an appeal on the BBC One's Crimewatch programme. A metal dealer, who had bought the piece, valued at up to half a million pounds, in good faith and paid £46 for it, recognised the piece and called police immediately.

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

"This was not just a couple of opportunistic thefts. This was a carefully planned operation for profit.  However, the guilty pleas of Liam Hughes and Jason Parker reflected the strength of the prosecution case against them.

"Metal theft is far from a victimless crime. It undermines and damages public transport networks such as railways, communications infrastructure such as phone lines, homes, churches, memorials, and businesses, whilst burdening taxpayers who are forced to fund, directly or indirectly, costly repairs or replacements.  The theft of trackside cables, and phone cables is particularly prevalent and hugely disruptive to the public.  On this occasion the theft of the Henry Moore sculpture was tragic as it is unique and invaluable and could not be replaced or reproduced.  It is great that the police were able to recover it with the help of Crimewatch.

"Metal theft is a serious problem nationally 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.

"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 Inspector Paul Watts, who led the investigation said: "This is a fantastic result for all concerned, not only have we secured the convictions of the men responsible, but our swift action led to the recovery of an invaluable piece of British Heritage. I would like to thank all of those involved, particularly my officers who worked tirelessly on the case, BBC Crimewatch, and The Henry Moore Foundation for their co-operation."

Richard Calvocoressi, Director, The Henry Moore Foundation, said: "We are relieved that those responsible for this pointless crime have been convicted. Let's hope this will send a warning signal to other metal thieves.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the police for the speed and thoroughness with which they investigated the theft."