Bill seeks scrap dealer audits to cut metal thefts

East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs Jnr.
East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs Jnr.

An East Antrim MLA is consulting on a Private Member’s Bill aimed at regulating scrap metal dealers, to combat metal thefts.

A consultation document published on the UUP man’s website aims to gather feedback on the idea.

Mr Beggs explained why he is seeking to introduce the Bill: “The issue of metal theft has been a live issue for some time now in East Antrim and across Northern Ireland. In the absence of legislation from the Department of Justice or the Department of the Environment to ensure an audit trail of traded scrap metal, I have taken it upon myself to introduce my own Private Member’s Bill at Stormont.”

He added: “It is a startling fact that in the first quarter of 2013, the PSNI reported 299 incidents of burglary, robbery and theft including property items listed as metal. There have been well documented cases of lead being taken from the roofs of schools and churches.

“In addition, in my local area there have been two major incidents of copper thefts at the Ballyvallagh electricity substation and I am aware of underground street lighting power cables being stolen from my neighbouring village of Gleno.

“Isolated rural communities have also been left without power as thieves have attempted to steal overhead power lines. Manhole covers have even been stolen, exposing the public to dangers.”

Mr Beggs said the replacement and additional security costs of individuals, organisations and utility companies are eventually passed on to the public or private businesses.

“It is apparent,” he added, “that the theft of metal for sale as scrap is a lucrative business and action must be taken in order to help combat this.”

Mr Beggs said: “It is my intention to propose a Bill to regulate scrap metal dealers in Northern Ireland. There has been significant cost to private individuals, churches, schools, public and private bodies as a result of stolen metal. At present there is no legislative requirement for those dealing in scrap metal to provide an audit trail and prevent stolen property from being traded.

“The proposed Scrap Metal Dealers Bill (NI) is an attempt to rectify this. As part of the legislative process, I am required to consult with interested parties. I would be grateful if the public or indeed organisations who have suffered from metal theft could help by completing the consultation online: or alternatively by completing the paper response to the consultation document which is available on my website”