21 years for metal theft gang as courts crack down
The longest jail terms were imposed on the gang’s ringleader, Stephen Fraser, 52, who was sentenced to five years, and his assistant William House, 45, who got four years.
The court heard that the gang members were arrested after police set up a surveillance operation and found they were operating what Judge Michael Gledhill QC described as a “large, sophisticated, well-managed conspiracy” to steal telecommunications cable and other items.
Passing sentence at Southwark Crown Court, London, the judge said:
“The country has a real and very grave problem with metal theft.
“'Whatever steps the authorities take to curb it appear to be having little effect at the moment.
“I must send out a clear message that those who are tempted to make easy money by stealing metal will, when caught, be punished by immediate and substantial custodial sentences.”
Luke Beeson, BT Security general manager for cable theft, said:
“The sentences reflect how seriously metal theft is now being taken by the courts and should act as a deterrent to others.”
The court heard that by the start of 2011 the theft of BT cable was endemic and led to police setting up a surveillance operation on a farm in Hayes, Middlesex, that appeared to be waste ground being used to park lorries and plant equipment.
In fact, it was leased to Fraser and was the hub of the gang’s activities.
Judge Gledhill told the defendants:
“You could not know it's status and you did not care.
“All you were concerned about was to cut it, rip it out, take it to base, and sell it for scrap.”
He said evidence was given at the trial, that one night cable directly linking hospitals in Southampton and Winchester was stolen.
“That severed the direct link that not only connected telephone calls but also data links,” said the judge.
“The hospitals could, of course, have communicated with each other by other means, but the theft had potentially fatal consequences.”
Other gang members to be sentenced were Danny Reynolds, 51, and Craig Jones, 41, who each received three years imprisonment; Alan Punter, 56, and Shaun Blackie, 48, who each received two years; and Steven Bloomfield, 42, described as a former cricketer with Middlesex, who received two years for driving the gang’s lorry.
Four other men who had also stood trial were found not guilty of taking part in the conspiracy.