Tough laws will punish thieves who target memorials
METAL thieves who steal from war memorials are to face tough new penalties, a Government minister has warned.
Measures to stop cash being paid for metal and give the police stronger powers to target rogue traders will come into force next month.
Four bronze plaques listing fallen servicemen were taken from the Naval Memorial on Plymouth Hoe in 2008, sparking outrage among city people and veterans.
Now harsher penalties are about to kick in punishing those who target war memorials, Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne has warned.
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Mr Browne is the Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton Deane, in Somerset, which has also been plagued by thefts and vandalism to war memorials.
"These thieves show an utter disregard for the memory of the courageous men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country," he said.
"The Government is determined to stamp out this illegal trade, which in recent years has cast a shadow over Remembrance Sunday for bereaved families.
"That is why we are reforming the scrap metal industry to support legitimate dealers and tighten the net around those who flout the rules."
The Scrap Metal Dealers Bill, tabled by Tory MP Richard Ottaway, is expected to receive parliamentary approval in the New Year. The Private Member's Bill, supported by the Government, will mean all scrap dealers would have to apply for a mandatory licence from their local authority, which would also have the power to suspend or revoke the licence if any illegal activity were suspected.
Police would also be given greater powers to inspect unlicensed scrap yards and charge those operating them.
The Bill, which passed its third reading in the House of Commons last week, is in addition to a dedicated £5million given to the metal theft taskforce and a number of recent legislative changes to tackle the problem, including banning all scrap metal dealers from trading in cash and increasing each of the financial penalties under the existing regulation of the scrap metal sector.
The changes will take effect on December 3.
Four bronze plaques were stolen from the Naval War Memorial on the Hoe in June 2008 – just hours after the city celebrated National Veterans Day.
Thieves targeted the landmark twice in the same week and made off with the valuable metal.
Police tracked the plaques down to Minehead, in Somerset. But one had been cut in half and the others damaged, meaning a costly recasting job.
In June the following year Daniel Wiles, from Embankment Road, Prince Rock, pleaded guilty to two charges of handling stolen goods.
Wiles, then aged 27, was sentenced to 14 months in jail, to be served concurrently with an indefinite sentence for admitting three counts of sexual assault.
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