A small victory in London’s war on scrap metal thieves — a woman has been jailed for stealing a World War I memorial plaque from St Mary’s Church in Lewisham.
The 42 year old Lana Clitheroe pleaded guilty at Bromley Magistrate’s Court, and was jailed for 4 months. Her co-defendant, who pleaded non-guilty, will appear at the Crown Court at a later date. While the plaque’s value is unknown, police described its emotional and historical value as incalculable.
The last year has been a tough one for London’s plaques and statues. The rising price of copper, lead and bronze has led to a spate of high profile thefts throughout the capital. Last November, a statue of social reformer Dr Alfred Salter was removed from a park in Bermondsey. The following month Barbara Hepworth’s iconic Two Forms (Divided Circle) was cut down from Dulwich Park. The artwork, worth an estimated half a million pounds, was most likely melted down for scrap, where it would reach a price of about £750.
Today’s sentence looks unlikely to deter London’s looters, whose theft on railway lines have seen commuter delays increase by 700% in the last few years. The British Transport Police are prioritising the problem as 'second to terrorism', and last month the Metropolitan Police set up a dedicated unit to tackle metal theft. A petition to amend the Scrap Metal Merchants Act of 1964, to prohibit cash-in-hand transactions, has also been building steam.
By Chris Mapleston. Image of some scrap-proof wire in Silvertown by niznoz in the Londonist Flickr pool.