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Man jailed for stealing drain covers
8:49am Saturday 2nd March 2013 in News
A MAN has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for stealing metal drain covers worth more than £42,000 from roads in North Worcestershire, Warwickshire and the West Midlands.
Graham Leith, aged 27, from High Street, Studley, admitted stealing 113 drain covers worth £28,000 belonging to Worcestershire County Council and 57 drain covers worth £14,250 belonging to Solihull Council.
The offences happened between November 2011 and January 2012.
He also admitted one charge of converting criminal property, namely stolen drain covers, knowing or suspecting them to be the proceeds of criminal conduct, contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. That charge related to selling a quantity of drain covers for £428 cash to a scrapyard in Kingswinford in the West Midlands.
He was sentenced today yesterday at Worcester Crown Court. The judge, Recorder John Steel QC, said that Leith had a wholly reckless disregard for the public and it was simply good luck that no-one had been injured.
Leith was arrested after a member of the public contacted police in the early hours of 17 January, 2012, to report a rental van acting suspiciously.
Police, who had been investigating numerous reports of drain covers being stolen in the area, stopped the van nearby. It was driven by Leith and had nearly 20 drain covers in the back.
Leith’s home was searched but none of the other drain covers were recovered. It is believed Leith had disposed of them at scrapyards.
As well as Redditch, other areas affected included Bromsgrove, Nuneaton, Studley, Alcester, and Shirley.
PC Tom Birchley of West Mercia Police said: “Stealing drain covers and leaving gaping holes in the road clearly put members of the public at risk.
“As well as the obvious safety implications, the cost of replacing the drain covers was huge, and needed to be met from public funds.”
Redditch District Inspector Ian Joseph said it was disappointing that when Leith was criminally active, scrapyards outside the North Worcestershire area were prepared to buy items that should have aroused suspicion as to their origins.
A recent change in legislation means that dealers can no longer purchase scrap metal for cash, and with further legislation nearing parliamentary consent this would hopefully have a significant deterrent effect on scrap metal thieves.
He warned that checks on scrap metal dealers would continue locally to ensure compliance with legislation.
Councillor John Smith OBE, Worcestershire County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: "Unfortunately, the theft of drain covers is a real problem and the scale of this one case in particular highlights this. Not only does it cost the residents of Worcestershire money but criminal acts like this put lives at risk. We now routinely use non-metal covers when replacing specifically because the rise in incidents like this.
"I'm pleased that justice has been done and hope this is a deterrent to anyone tempted to do anything like this in the future."