Unscrupulous metal thieves who callously steal from war memorials and graves will face tougher penalties next month. Reporter ALAN WOODS finds out more.

SPEAKING from Erith war memorial in Churchmanor Way, Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne introduced a series of new regulations on Wednesday (November 7).

The new powers, which come into effect from December 3, will ban dealers from buying scrap metal from traders in cash.

Judges will also be able to hand metal thieves increased financial penalties and police will have greater powers of entry to tackle scrap dealers who do not comply with regulations.

Across the News Shopper patch thieves have ruined lives by targeting war memorials, graves and telephone cables in the past year.

Mr Browne spoke about the new bill and the impact theft from memorials has on families of war veterans.

He said: “These thieves show an utter disregard for the memory of the courageous men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“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.”

In October, the War Memorials Trust announced that even though the number of thefts from war memorials has fallen in the past two years, a worrying number still happen.

In 2011, 40 thefts or attempted thefts from memorials were reported but so far in 2012, there have been just 14.

The trust believes a fall in the price of metal and greater awareness of war memorials have triggered the fall.

News Shopper: Jeremy Browne, Chief Inspector Robin Edwards and Amy Davidson from the War Memorial Trust.

War Memorial Trust’s director Frances Moreton said: “It’s always distressing when attacks on war memorials take place, particularly at this time of year when communities gather for Remembrance Services and the importance of memorials and the names on them are so poignant.”

The new powers are part of the Scrap Metal Dealer’s Bill, which was put forward by MP Richard Ottaway and is expected to receive parliamentary approval next year.

After visiting the memorial in Erith, Mr Browne visited European Metal Recycling in Manor Road, where he met employees to discuss what more could be done to reduce thefts.


August 2011 – Larner Road homeowners suffer severe flooding as well as loss of power when thieves attack copper piping attached to water tanks on tower block roofs.

October 2011 – Two solid brass plaques, listing the names of soldiers, sailors and airmen from Sidcup who lost their lives in both world wars, are stolen from the war memorial in Sidcup Place.

January 19 2012 – Thieves steal 163m of underground telephone network cable from Kingswood Avenue and Lesnes Abbey Woods in Belvedere.

January 31 2012 – Attempted cable theft in Hatherley Road, Sidcup, leaves 500 people without a telephone line or internet for six days.

February 3 2012 –Paul Kelly is jailed for six months for stealing a First World War memorial plaque from St Mary’s Church in Lewisham High Street.

May 14 2012 – police recover 300 name plaques stolen from graves at a Beckenham cemetery during a raid on a scrap metal dealer.