THIEVES who were caught red-handed trying to sell stolen railway cable have been given community orders.
Rail bosses say such thefts are extremely dangerous, devastating, cost millions of pounds and cause hours of delays.
Cable thefts on Network Rail’s Transpennine route last year cost £845,204 to replace. Now it is calling for a change in the law to toughen up scrapyard regulations.
Gheorghe Pongori and Loan Singerean were sentenced at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.
The court heard how on October 5 police were doing a routine search at a scrap metal yard when they found Singerean weighing in his latest haul.
When quizzed by officers, Singerean, 24, said he had stolen the copper cable the night before from the railway near Hall Lane, Thornhill, and been told he would get £392 for it.
He admitted he had also stolen copper cable from the same spot two or three nights earlier, and weighed it in at another scrap yard for £344.
Pongori, 25, told police he had stolen the railway cable with Singerean. He also admitted stealing the cable from the same site on September 3.
Laurie Scott, prosecuting said: “It is very difficult to value this kind of cable but Network Rail estimates the cost of replacing it at £500.”
Nigel Taylor, mitigating, said the two defendants had ‘seized the opportunity to obtain the cable, not immediately recognising at that time the impact it would have on the community, in particular Network Rail’.
Singerean, of Grosvenor Street, pleaded guilty to theft by finding and trespassing on the railway at an earlier hearing.
He was sentenced to a 12 month community order with an eight week electronic curfew and 100 hours unpaid work. He must also pay a £60 victim surcharge.
Pongori, of William Street, Ravensthorpe, admitted two counts of theft by finding, two counts of trespassing on the railway, driving without insurance and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.
Magistrate Cliff Bromley gave him a 12 month community order with a 12 week curfew and 100 hours unpaid work. He must pay £60 costs, has been given a six month driving ban and has had his vehicle forfeited.
Detective Inspector Stuart Mellish from British Transport Police said: “Theft of cable from the railway is not only costly, but also has a devastating impact on the community.”
He said cable thefts in West Yorkshire had reduced by 73 per cent, adding: “The act of stealing, or attempting to steal, cable is also extremely dangerous. The risk these thieves take for relatively small gains is astonishing.”
Network Rail route managing director Phil Verster said: “We firmly believe reform of the law is required to remove the market for stolen metal which is why we are supporting the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill which has passed through Parliament and will be read in the House of Lords next week.”