A call has been made for a change in the law to break the spiralling trend of metal theft in Northern Ireland.
Today the UUP’s Roy Beggs has called for people to respond to a consultation over his Scrap Metal Dealers Bill (Private Members Bill), which aims to end cash trading and create an audit trail for scrap metal transactions.
East Antrim MLA Mr Beggs hopes the bill can put the brakes on the “1,500-plus metal thefts occurring annually in Northern Ireland”.
He has asked the public to lend their support by completing the online consultation which closes on February 1 (see below for details on how to do so).
“The scrap metal industry is recognised by the Association of Chief Police Officers as being the principal market for stolen metal,” said Mr Beggs.
“The 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act in England has recently been updated to provide an audit trail of metal sales, yet no such legislation exists in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Beggs said the need to improve the law to tackle metal theft became clear to him “following a spate of metal theft not far from my home”.
He said: “Newly installed underground electricity cable providing street lighting was stolen from the village of Glenoe.
“A number of thefts of earthing metal from the Ballyvallagh substation not only put the lives of NIE engineers working there at risk but also threatened the electricity supply to thousands of my constituents in Larne and the wider east Antrim area.
“I am also aware of churches in Larne and schools in Carrickfergus suffering from the theft of lead from roofs which have had to be replaced at great cost.
“Copper tanks and heating systems have been stolen from houses causing considerable expense making homes uninhabitable.”
Mr Beggs added he was pleased with the encouragement he received from the Northern Ireland Utilities Working Group, who “have suffered themselves but are more concerned with the safety of the general public”.
“Metal theft has resulted in considerable damage to property and significant replacement costs to constituents, businesses, voluntary groups and public bodies,” he added.
To respond to the consultation, visit www.roybeggs.co.uk/scrap-metal/.