Hapless scrap thief’s attempt costs him an arm and a leg

A recent scrap metal theft case has highlighted the dangers of stealing cable, with the painful and costly outcome for the thief showing that it simply isn’t worth the trouble!

In May last year, John Daw, a 41-year-old man from Salford, attempted to steal cables from the Metrolink tram network, which connects towns and cities in Greater Manchester. After being caught with an accomplice in the act by security guards at Cornbrook Station, Daw jumped from a viaduct, breaking his skull, his pelvis and a leg when he dropped 50 feet on to waste ground.

During his attempt to get at the cables, he had severed the fibre-optic cables for the tram network’s communications system. This meant that the thousands of passengers stranded on platforms along the lines to Eccles, Altrincham and Salford’s MediaCity, home to the BBC, did not know why no trams were running, because no announcements could be made.

Daw pleaded guilty to attempted theft and was jailed for two years and nine months, but his punishment did not end there. The seriousness of the consequences of his crime, which included several thousand pounds’ worth of costs to Metrolink in dealing with the disruption, was such that Daw also has a County Court Judgement ordering him to pay £35,000 in damages.

Chris Coleman, managing director of Metrolink RATP Dev Ltd, told the Manchester Evening News:

“As an operator we have a responsibility to the thousands of commuters affected that day, which is why we chose to pursue a civil case against him and to show we will not tolerate this sort of behaviour.

“This was the worst case of vandalism seen in the history of Metrolink and resulted in us being the first operator in more than 20 years to claim against an individual for damage done to the network.”

The disruption to passengers and costs to the transport network, not to mention the costs and the potentially life-threatening injuries to the would-be thief, hammer home the dangers of scrap metal theft and the impact on victims. Clearly, there is a need for harsh penalties to deal with the problem, and Recycling Lives is pleased that Metrolink has filed a claim against Daw.

At the time Daw and his accomplice tried to steal the cables, scrap metal could be taken to any trader, whether a licensed yard or an itinerant collector, and exchanged for cash. Last December, licensed yards were banned from dealing in cash, but mobile collectors are still able to pay cash for scrap.

This will change in October, though, with the enforcement of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, which will overhaul the way the industry goes about its business. All scrap traders will have to be publicly registered, and the cash ban will be extended to mobile traders in addition to scrapyards. Police and local authorities will have greater powers to deal with people who flout the regulations, too. This is welcomed by Recycling Lives because it will deter metal theft and, it is hoped, stop the kind of disruption that happened on the Metrolink lines last year.