METAL thieves who steal from war memorials are to face tough new penalties, Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said yesterday.
From next month police will have stronger powers to target rogue traders and stop scrap being sold for cash.
Days before Remembrance Sunday, the Minister visited a war memorial site in Erith, south east London, which has been damaged by metal thieves.
“These thieves show an utter disregard for the memory of the courageous men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Mr Browne said.
“The Government is determined to stamp out this illegal trade, which in recent years has cast a shadow over Remembrance Sunday for bereaved families.
“That is why we are reforming the scrap metal industry to support legitimate dealers and tighten the net around those who flout the rules.”
There are roughly 1,000 metal thefts a week, which cost the country at least £220m each year.
A Scrap Metal Dealer’s Bill, tabled by MP Richard Ottoway, is in addition to £5m provided to the metal theft task force will boost the new powers further.
The powers are intended to stop dealers trading in cash. They will also increase financial penalties.
The new powers will come into effect on December 3.