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Metal theft crime prevention plan in final stages

A plan to reduce the number of metal theft crimes is to be finalised but Mattie McGrath TD says any legislation is 20 years too late.

Image: dave barker via Flickr

AUTHORITIES ARE AT an advanced stage in drafting the Metal Theft Crime Prevention and Reduction Plan.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that the plan, which has been done in consultation with the Metal Theft Forum, will tackle the issue of the rise in metal robberies.

The Metal Theft Forum was established following garda analysis of crime trends and involves stakeholders particularly affected by this type of crime, including the Irish Farmers’ Association, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers association, the Electricity Supply Board, telecoms, transport companies and relevant government agencies.

Late last year, Independent TD Mattie McGrath introduced a Bill to the Dáil requiring greater restrictions on the buying, selling and trading of precious or scrap metal. However, the Bill was defeated in March by 92 votes to 43.

McGrath told TheJournal.ie how Shatter had said he was not prepared to accept the Bill before the task force had issued its report – but said he planned to re-instigate the Bill in the Autumn.

There was huge support for the Bill. Labour and Independents were in support of it as everyone knows that this is a huge problem. Country businesses face a huge problem with these sort of thefts. Businesses are getting stripped of everything, farmers are having machinery stolen in the night and unfinished housing estates are being gutted of metals, doors, you name it.

He added the Bill that he had proposed also addressed some difficulties with cash-for-gold shops and said that even jewellery shops were happy with it. He said:

I was very exercised about Minister Shatter’s rejection of the Bill. It is interesting that the UK are looking at this and want to do something.

In the UK, campaigners are calling for a scrap metal law to be introduced to tackle heritage crime. Politicians are calling for tighter regulations on dealers of metals.

The Art Newspaper reports that proposed law has the support of the War Memorial Trust and Henry Moore Foundation. Last month a bronze Henry Moore sculpture worth £500,000 was stolen from the artist’s estate.

Richard Calvocoressi, the director of the Henry Moore Foundation, wrote to British MPs telling them that “metal theft undermines the cultural and artistic value of prized and unique objects”.

“We would welcome any legislation that makes it more difficult for dishonest or unaware traders to profit from the thefts of works of art,” he wrote.

The UK law proposed would see compulsory licences for dealers, a ban on cash payments and greater powers for authorities. McGrath said Ireland needed a similar proposal.

“It will probably be 20 years too late but better late than never,” he said.

Earlier this month part of an historic metal bell dating from the 16th century was stolen from a converted church in Co Kerry. The artefact was later recovered, but over the past two years high profile thefts of artefacts and public art objects have been stolen around the country.

Toby Dennett, Head of Public Art in The Arts Council of Ireland told TheJournal.ie that the damage to any art work is always of concern to The Arts Council:

Works that have been paid for by the public purse that have been badly damaged or vandalised of course concerns us. There are a number of works dotted around the country that have a cultural significance to Ireland’s heritage.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice stated the plan will be finalised shortly and the Minister will study any garda recommendations concerning regulation adding:

The Minister looks forward to finalisation of the Metal Theft Crime Prevention and Reduction plan so that the overall response to this type of crime is as effective as possible. The gardaí are doing everything they can to progress this complex matter, in consultation with the other stakeholders, so as to ensure a properly considered and strategic response.

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