Font Size: A A A

Home > News > Case Studies > Jail for metal theft

Case Studies

Jail for metal theft

A Newport cable thief who was caught following a covert policing operation has been jailed for over four years. Richard John Mansfield, aged 25, of Mallard Way, Duffryn, was on Thursday, April 19, sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court following a British Transport Police (BTP) investigation.



He had previously pleaded guilty to theft of railway cable, attempted theft of railway cable and going equipped to steal. The court heard that on 16 December 2010, 350 metres of railway cable – worth £1,819 – had been stolen from Park Junction, off Golden Mile View, Bassaleg Road, Newport.


After a search of the area, a large quantity of cable was discovered nearby, apparently stored in preparation for collection at a later time.


In an attempt to detect and apprehend the offender, specialist BTP officers employed new covert technology, and three days later Mansfield was caught cutting the cable in a field.


He was subsequently arrested but denied stealing the cable, adding: “I was walking my Nan’s Jack Russell this afternoon and I spotted a load of cable. I just thought I’d come back in the night and see if it was still there, so I dragged it into the tunnel.”


Officers seized a number of items and Mansfield was bailed pending further enquiries.


Then, on 31 December 2010, a report was received of damage to a section of cabling near Spytty Road Bridge, Liswerry, on the London to South Wales main line.


BTP and Network Rail attended, and following a search of the area, items including a hacksaw and glove were recovered. Police officers remained in the area to undertake covert observations, and around 20 minutes later saw Mansfield emerge from bushes and scale a boundary fence onto Spytty Road Bridge.


He was followed and again arrested. In interview, he denied being the person seen emerging from the bushes, claiming he was simply walking through having just left his grandmother’s house. Enquiries later revealed she had not seen Mansfield since Christmas Day.


Additional enquiries confirmed Mansfield had bought a hacksaw from Screwfix on Maesglas Industrial Estate the previous day (30 December 2010) and had also purchased two red and grey holdalls from the Argos store at Maesglas Retail Park on 15 December 2010. These bags were discovered near the scene of the earlier theft at Park Junction.


The total cost of the attempted theft on 31 December 2010 – including replacing the damaged cable and labour costs – amounted to £2,997.


Sentencing Mansfield, Recorder David Miller said: “Your actions resulted in disruption to the railway service and potential danger to the public. You did this without any regard for the community in which you live.


“Despite the fact you were on police bail, you still went out and tried to steal more cable.


“Although the copper stolen was of no great value in monetary terms, the disruption caused by this type of behaviour is significant.


“Theft of railway cable has become very prevalent, and it is because of this prevalence a deterrent sentence must be imposed.”


Mansfield was sentenced to a total of four years and three months imprisonment – two years and three months for the offences committed in December 2010, and a further two years for an additional offence which formed part of a separate investigation.


Detective Constable Chris Bolton, part of the investigating team from BTP Cardiff, said after the case: “I hope the sentence handed down to Mansfield serves as a stark warning to others seeking to profit from stealing from the railway. BTP, Network Rail and the criminal justice system takes a dim view of this type of activity and simply will not tolerate any behaviour which threatens the infrastructure of the country.


“Stealing railway cable is incredibly dangerous, and anyone seeking to do so risks serious injury – or even death – through electrocution.


“The perception that these thefts are victimless crimes could not be further from the truth. The money lost by train operating, telecommunication and electrical companies is astronomical, but is undoubtedly overshadowed by the negative effect these thefts have on ordinary members of the public going about their daily lives.


“Individuals such as Mansfield are often perceived as lovable rouges, only making a couple of pounds from a few pieces of cable or metal – this is, of course, wildly inaccurate.


“These parasitic opportunists, who prey on law-abiding taxpayers, are organised and selfish. They need to be stopped before innocent people are killed by their greed.


“We’re clamping down on metal thieves, and with our increased use of technology and specialist operations in key hotspots, we’re arresting and prosecuting more metal thieves than ever before.


“We’ll continue to have a high-visibility presence, including officers patrolling on foot, in vehicles and with police dogs, to catch and deter criminals, and will continue to work closely with scrap metal dealers and the British Metals Recycling Association.”


Mark Langman, route managing director at Network Rail Wales, said: “Cable theft is costing the rail industry almost £20 million a year, which is money we would otherwise spend on improving and maintaining our railway.


“It’s a huge issue and one which all affected industries are committed to tackling – but we can’t do it alone. We need to see tougher sentences for cable thieves in the courts and the police must be given the powers they need to shut down the rogue scrap dealers who are profiting from the travelling public’s misery.


“We’re working across the rail industry and with others, including BT and other utilities companies, to try and get changes to the laws governing scrap metal dealers and to make sure the courts hand down tougher penalties for convicted cable thieves.” 


Related News