By ACNS staff
The Church of England has welcomed new UK legislation to punish rogue traders who buy and sell stolen scrap metal for cash.
The decision to fine law breakers £5,000 and force all scrap metal dealers to apply to their local council for a licence to operate is good news for the Church.
This is because parishes around the province have been the victim of more than 10,000 cases of metal theft between 2007 and 2012. The cost to repair the damage done was a staggering £27m.
Up until today's announcement by the government, the lack of any legislation meant thieves and unscrupulous dealers could exploit soaring metal prices by targeting lead and copper roof coverings and pipes.
However, the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, clamps down on rogue traders and also gives local authorities and police new powers to inspect premises where they suspect illegal activity.
Magistrates will be able to issue fines of up to £5,000 to scrap metal dealers who trade in cash.
As well as having the power to issue licences, councils will be able to refuse or revoke licences if a dealer is deemed unsuitable.
Anne Sloman, Chair of the Church of England’s Church Buildings Council said, “The Council has worked hard with the Home Office to get this legislation on the statute book and we are grateful to Ministers and officials who have approached this problem with such determination.
"We believe it will be crucial in reducing the scourge of lead theft which has scarred so many of our churches in the past few years and caused such grief to congregations and communities who work hard to keep our 16,000 parish churches in good condition.
"The numbers of thefts are already going down, but we cannot be complacent. Every church roof that is vandalised by thieves is one too many and we must all remain vigilant. But this legislation is a very important step in the right direction.”
The UK's Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said that metal theft costs the economy around £220 million a year and it has a huge impact on communities – from disrupted rail services to desecrated war memorials and damaged church roofs.
"Our changes, including increasing financial penalties and banning cash payments, have already helped slash metal theft across the UK," he said.
"This new legislation will help tighten the net around rogue dealers who flout the rules and wilfully purchase stolen metal, while reforming the system to support legitimate businesses."
For more information about the new law visit http://bit.ly/1bq8FAT