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The Role of The Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, we are responsible for:

  • advising the police on cases for possible prosecution
  • reviewing cases submitted by the police
  • determining any charges in more serious or complex cases
  • preparing cases for court
  • presenting cases at court

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DPP welcomes guidance on metal theft as four convicted for stealing metal from railways


John Gowland and Dominic Wallis have today pleaded guilty to the theft of copper railway cabling in Warwickshire following the earlier guilty pleas of Flame Redshaw and John Brunozzi-Jones on 30 January 2012. Between August 2010 and March 2011, their criminality caused some 500 hours of delay and affected 58 train services.

These convictions follow the launch of Crown Prosecution guidance for lawyers on tackling metal theft, highlighting the significant and damaging impact it has on communities and industry.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "The impact of metal theft on the railway network can be particularly severe, with serious disruption to services and the threat to safety for all those who use, and work on, the rail network, not to mention the cost implications. In this case alone, the cost to Network Rail for repairs and compensation was £135,000.

"Metal theft is far from a victimless crime; it causes frustration and disruption to commuters and can be a real burden on taxpayers who are forced to fund, directly or indirectly, costly replacements, especially on the railway network. Not only does it cause problems for business and the railways, it indiscriminately targets homes, churches and memorials. I am determined my prosecutors take a firm stand on this issue and that is why we have issued guidance specifically to deal with this crime."

The CPS guidance reminds prosecutors that whilst the scrap value of the metal concerned is sometimes negligible, the public harm it causes is widespread. Prosecutors will highlight the full facts of a case, actively obtaining information on the impact and effect of such thefts which may go far wider than the direct loss or damage caused, allowing the courts to sentence appropriately.

Mr Starmer said: "Victims and witnesses of 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."

Prosecutors are reminded of the range of charges available to them, including criminal damage, money laundering and handling stolen goods as well as theft. Prosecutors can also ask the court to consider deprivation and disqualification orders, denying thieves of their car or van where a vehicle and driving license is vital to the success of their criminal activity.

"When metal theft occurs, whether it is railway cables, lead from a village church roof or commemorative metal plaques honouring our war dead, we want to mount a robust prosecution of those responsible. A number of prosecutions resulting in tough custodial sentences, compensation and confiscation of vehicles have already been achieved. We are now building on this success, keeping up on the pressure on criminals who blight the lives of all those affected," Mr Starmer added.

The Theft Act Offences Guidance also brings together other existing policy, reminding prosecutors of the following approaches to encourage robust prosecutions:

  • To add firearms or offensive weapons charges where appropriate to indictments for aggravated burglary where weapons are carried
  • Any charge or count on an indictment should specifically indicate when the building is a dwelling or residence. If a building is inhabited this will have an impact on sentencing
  • Ensuring that third burglaries of dwellings are dealt with where appropriate using the "Third Strike" domestic burglary rules so that they attract the mandatory minimum sentence in the Crown Court
  • Considering charges of robbery where violence, force or intimidation is used to steal in the course of a burglary

The CPS Theft Act Offences guidance can be read in full on the Legal Guidance section of the CPS website.



Brunozzi-Jones, Gowland, Redshaw and Wallis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

They will be sentenced during the week commencing 9 July 2012 at Warwick Crown Court

A number of evidential elements linked the four defendants over 30 incidents including the unique method of cutting the cable with a power saw, CCTV from covert cameras and a helicopter, DNA at the site of the first offence, visits to scrap dealers to sell the copper in the days after the offences had been committed, text messages between the defendants and traces of the unique SmartWater signature that was subsequently matched to a number of items linked to three of the defendants including clothing, a power saw and a scooter.

SmartWater IndSol Tracer is a solution which is painted onto items of value in order for them to be able to be identified at a later time and place should they be removed.