The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 was introduced to reduce metal theft by strengthening regulation of the scrap metal industry. The intention was to make it more difficult for unscrupulous dealers to trade in stolen metal as the key to reducing the incidence of metal theft. In order to assess whether the legislation has achieved these objectives, the Home Office has looked at the available evidence on trends in metal theft, and asked interested parties for their views. The trends in metal theft In January 2015, the Home Office published: An evaluation of government/law enforcement interventions aimed at reducing metal theft. This paper noted that metal theft offences had increased between 2009 and 2011, very much in line with rises in global metal prices, and then fell during 2012 and 2013. During this period, a package of interventions targeting metal theft was introduced: − Operation Tornado, first piloted in January 2012 and then rolled out on a phased basis across England and Wales by September 2012. This required scrap metal dealers to request identification documentation for every cash sale and retain copies for 12 months; − cashless trading from December 2012, which stopped scrap metal yards from accepting cash payments; and − the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which was commenced on 1 October 2013. The Home Office evaluation found that this package of interventions drove a reduction in offences over and above the effect of a fall in metal prices and other factors driving trends in acquisitive crime. Modelling conducted at the time suggested that the interventions themselves could be credited with a fall of around 30 per cent, with the rest being attributable to falling prices and other downward pressures on acquisitive crime. The Home Office also began to collect data from police forces on metal theft in April 2012 and this now provides data on trends over a five year period. The table below shows that there has been a continuing downward trend in numbers of offences during this period.
Prior to the end of 2016, a number of interested parties approached the Home Office to say that there was now sufficient evidence to commence the review and that there was no need to wait until 2018 to do this. In view of this, and after consideration of the available evidence, Home Office Ministers agreed that the review should be undertaken early. In December 2016, the Home Office wrote to potentially interested parties to seek their views on the contribution that the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 had made to reductions in levels of metal theft. Specifically, these organisations were asked: ➢ whether the Act has been successful in providing a robust, modern, and comprehensive regulatory regime for the metal recycling sector in order to tackle the trade in stolen metal; ➢ whether it is appropriate to retain or repeal the Act or any of its provisions; ➢ whether the requirements relating to licences and the national registers set out in the Act have helped to achieve the Act’s objectives; and ➢ the extent to which other requirement in the Act – to verify the identity of those from whom scrap metal dealers receive scrap metal; the requirement that dealers must maintain appropriate records of all transactions; and the prohibition on dealers paying for scrap metal by cash – have helped to achieve the Act’s objective. Over 50 individuals and organisations wrote to the Home Office with views on the review and these views are reflected throughout this report.
The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 was introduced to tackle rising levels of metal theft. Prior to the Act, metal theft offences were increasing, driven by the rising cost of metals on the world commodity market. The cost of these offences to the UK was estimated to be at least £220 million per annum, and the crimes posed a threat to the security of the national infrastructure and affected a range of sectors including power, transport and telecommunications. The purpose of the Act was to reverse the upward trend in levels of metal theft through stricter regulation of the metal recycling sector to make it more difficult to dispose of stolen metal. The Act: • requires a scrap metal dealer to hold and display a licence, issued by the relevant local authority. This can be either a site licence or a mobile collector’s licence; • permits local authorities to charge a licence fee, set locally, at cost recovery; • allows for the closure of unlicensed sites; • requires local authorities to provide appropriate information to enable the Environment Agency in England and the Natural Resources Body for Wales to maintain national registers of licences; • requires scrap metal dealers to verify the identity and address of persons from whom they receive metal; • makes it an offence for a scrap metal dealer to purchase scrap metal for cash; • sets out the record-keeping requirements in respect of any scrap metal received or disposed of by scrap metal dealers; and • provides the police and local authorities with a right to enter and inspect scrap metal dealers’ premises.