Scrap metal traders hit back on efforts to cut thefts

Herald Series: Gareth Hughes, of LC Hughes scrap dealers, at his yard in Bicester. Picture: OX55957 Richard Cave Buy this photo » Gareth Hughes, of LC Hughes scrap dealers, at his yard in Bicester. Picture: OX55957 Richard Cave

SCRAP metal dealers in Oxfordshire are concerned new rules that ban cash payments could hurt their businesses.

Changes to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act come into effect today, which mean dealers can no longer pay for metal with cash, in the latest move to tackle metal theft.

The recent rise in metal prices has led to thieves targeting churches, schools, and railways, to strip away lead and copper and sell it on. But last night county metal merchants said the new law would hit their business.

Gareth Hughes, of Bicester firm LC Hughes, welcomed the effort to cut theft. But he was also worried because most small traders only take cash.

He said: “A lot of big companies say they are happy to have it paid in to their bank accounts but our bread and butter is plumbers and fitters who have a bit of metal to sell.”

He was also concerned travelling traders would not abide by the rule, adding: “We are in favour of it but it has to be a level playing field.”

Gary Trafford, office manager at Oxford-based Metal Salvage, said: “It is going to be a real headache. It’s going to affect our business greatly and it will do no good at all.

“It’s just going to drive it underground.” Paul Jarvis, of L Jarvis and Sons scrap metal in Middleton Cheney, said the firm would only be buying metal worth more than £20 because anything less would not be worth the credit card transaction fee.

He said: “It’s all additional cost at the end of day with the time and paper work.”

This summer scrap metal dealers in the Thames Valley agreed to only buy metal if the seller provided a photographic identification.

As a result of this and other measures, metal thefts appear to be on the decline in the county.

In Oxford, between April 1 and September 31, metal theft fell by 68 per cent compared to the same period last year. In Oxfordshire it fell 36 per cent and across the Thames Valley by 48 per cent.

Detective Inspector Ian Wood, south east regional coordinator for metal theft, said it had been cut through visits to dealers, increasing patrols and operations.

And he said the new law would help to bring it down further. He said: “There was a lack of accountability across the whole industry.

“The new legislation is going to assist us as it will give us another tool in our tool box.”

Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry, who helped introduce the changes, said: “By making dealing in metal cashless, much will be done to stamp out the despicable crime which has affected churches, war memorials and many other places over the years.”

  • Police raided scrap metal dealers across the region in May as part of Operation Symphony and six men have been charged.

Peter Smith, 68, and Tommy Smith, 36, who were arrested after a raid on scrapyard Smiths of Bloxham, were last month charged with attempting to acquire criminal property.

They have been bailed to appear at Banbury Magistrates’ Court on December 14.

After a similar raid at TR Rogers & Sons in Nuneham Courtenay, Terence Rogers, 69, of High Street, Drayton St Leonard, and Simon Rogers, 42, of Bromsgrove, Faringdon, were both charged with attempt to acquire criminal property and attempt to conceal criminal property.

They will all appear at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on December 14. Martin Pace, 35, of Abbott Road, Didcot, and Darren Andrews, 34, of Colwell Road, Berinsfield, also face the same charges and will appear at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on December 12.

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