The Home Office announced that it will retain the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 rather than “strengthen” it after a review found that theft numbers have decreased by more than three quarters in four years following action by the government to tackle a spike in these crimes.
Figures show a drop in thefts from almost 62,000 in 2012/13 to around 16,000 in 2015/16 due to what the Home Office calls “tough measures to crack down on the trade-in stolen metal”. Potentially this has saved the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds.
And in 2016/17 police-recorded metal thefts in England and Wales fell to fewer than 13,000.
At its peak, metal theft was estimated to cost the economy more than £220m per year, which prompted the introduction of new licensing requirements for scrap metal dealers, identity checks for sellers scrap metal and the creation of a new offence for dealers to purchase scrap metal for cash.
Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins, said: “I am pleased the Act continues to be a powerful weapon against this form of criminality and the robust measures put in place in 2013 are working to regulate the industry and deter people from stealing metal or dealing with stolen scrap metal.”
“We will continue to work with a range of partners to identify whether more can be done to prevent these crimes from occurring and ensure that those involved are brought to justice.”
Despite the report of falling figures, The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) says metal theft is on the rise.
BMRA said it is “dismayed” by the news that the Home Office has chosen not to “strengthen the SMDA or fund its proper enforcement”.
BMRA said it is further dismayed that, despite the “rising incidents of metal theft”, it claims, the Home Office has chosen not to allocate funds to enforce the Act through the reestablishment of the Metal Theft Taskforce.
“Instead, Government has chosen to take the path of least resistance,” it says, “thereby ignoring the pleas by the many victims of crime to strengthen the Act. Since the review was announced, we have repeatedly warned that, as metal prices recover, the reports of metal theft will rise – and they have done, significantly.”
When the Review was announced, while BMRA supported the move to retain the Act and lobbied Government to both further strengthen and enforce the Scrap Metal Dealers Act.
According to the information found here, https://ciwm-journal.co.uk/scrap-metal-dealers-act-retained-metal-theft-falls/ the measures requested were:
- Creating disincentives to receive cash payments by creating a new offence of receiving cash for scrap metal.
- Expanding police powers to inspect itinerant collectors, more specifically given them the power to inspect vehicles used for the purpose of carrying on business as a mobile collector.
- Creating a more rigorous local authority licensing regime to ensure transparency and consistency by: harmonising licensing renewals procedure; improving the application process; and, strengthening the requirement for local authorities to provide data.
“Having ignored these requests for the Act to be amended, and those made by other key stakeholders, the Home Office must be prepared to be held accountable for soaring metal theft figures, and any resulting injuries to members of the public,” it says.
“Nevertheless, BMRA will gladly take up the Home Office’s offer to help it identify what can be done within the existing legislation to address the serious shortcomings of the SMDA 2013.”