Another gang of metal thieves jailed

In a further sign that courts are now taking the crime of metal theft with the seriousness it deserves, a gang of cable thieves have been given prison sentences totalling twelve years and ten months at Blackfriars Crown court.

The thieves pleaded guilty to a string of 47 attacks in London and five counties between May and August 2011 in which they stole more then ten kilometers of copper cable, are estimated to have caused about £715,000 worth of damage, and inflicted major disruption to broadband, phone and train services.

Christopher Cruz, 33, Kris Kreuder, 36, Shaun Nembhard, 44, John Newton, 36, Bill Lee, 60, and Simon Scott, 45, all pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court in London to conspiracy to steal cable.

The court heard how the organised gang stole cable from the railway network and from BT in Hertfordshire, Essex, Leicestershire, Rutland, Buckinghamshire and London. All but one of the ten attacks they mounted on the BT network involved live cables causing significant damage and cutting off services to many customers. Large quantities of stolen copper cable were recovered a site in Essex where three of the criminals were arrested.

Five of the defendants have so far been sentenced to prison terms – Cruz to three years and nine months; Scott to three years and six months; Nembhard to two years and three months; Lee to two years in addition to a two-and-a-half-year sentence he is already serving, and Kreuder to one year and four months. Sentencing for the sixth offender was deferred until March, to take place following the conclusion of other unrelated charges currently under investigation.

Simon Davies, BT general manager for cable and payphone crime, said:

“This gang had complete disregard for the disruption caused to other peoples’ lives by their criminal activities, and it’s pleasing to see the court dealing with them in this way.

“Whilst we have many effective security measures, cable theft is still an ongoing serious and nation-wide problem that affects our network on a regular basis.

“It impacts upon communities right across the UK, is hugely disruptive to the public and businesses and can prevent access to emergency services, endangering the welfare of vulnerable people.

"We will therefore continue to work closely with the police and our communications provider customers to identify and tackle this crime.”

Naheed Hussain, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) London Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, said that this case had been the largest investigation of its kind. He added:

"These criminals made tens of thousands of pounds from these thefts that cost a great deal more to fix and caused disruption across the rail and telephone networks. CPS London is committed to tackling cable thieves who cause disruption and damage to the country's travel and communication infrastructure."

I'm pleased that this gang will not be putting lives and jobs at risk for a few years. I do think that the sentencing guidelines need to be reviewed further. There is a strong case that the recommended punishment for members of organised gangs who put public safety at risk with repeated thefts from essential infrastructure should involve nominal prison terms in excess of ten years so that more than five years will actually be spent behind bars.


Anonymous said…
What should Chris Huhne get?
Chris Whiteside said…
As I wrote in the previous post,

"I hope and expect that the courts will treat Huhne the same way they would treat anyone who wasn't an MP and who committed the same crime. I would have said the same whichever party he stood for."

Judging by the other cases I can find on the net, the going rate for perjury and lying in an attempt to avoid a fine for a single speeding offence appears to be a prison sentence of three to six months unless there are particularly heinous circumstances.

For example, footballer Leon MkKenzie was sentenced to six months for trying to avoid a speeding fine by lying about it.

However, in repeated cases of fraud or where there are other factors making the case more serious such as abuse of a position of responsibility, the sentence can be a year or more.

A police employee who worked in the Road Safety Unit and who abused her position to get her partner off a speeding fine by manipulating a police computer so he could not be prosecuted was given a year in prison.

The leading members of a gang who organised a scam of nominating fictitious drivers for a whole string of tickets in exchange for cash from the real culprits were given 21 months and 12 months respectively (for each offence, to run concurrently).

Apparently it is not that rare for people to be stupid enough to try this. If the judge decides it's a fairly typical case you might see Huhne get something like six months in prison and his wife three.

If the judge considers that someone in his position should have set a better example and that lying about it for a decade makes this a particularly serious event, he could get up to a year inside.

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