A Sunderland man has been banned from entering any railway station in England and Wales for the next three years after stealing essential railway equipment from Tyne and Wear Metro.
Joseph Carolan (47) of Exeter Street in Pallion, Sunderland, was sentenced yesterday (Monday, 26 March) at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to theft from the railway.
Covert cameras were activated in the early hours of Thursday, 9 February, after suspicious activity was reported on the Tyne and Wear Metro line near Pallion station.
British Transport Police (BTP) officers were deployed to the area alongside Northumbria Police search dog teams. A police helicopter was also utilised and a search was carried out in the area.
An abandoned car was found near to the scene and, when officers searched the vehicle, stolen bonding cable was found in the boot.
Engineers from Network Rail also confirmed that impedance bonds (which are essential parts of railway overhead equipment) had been taken from the rail line.
Officers from Operation Leopard, BTP’s dedicated cable and metal theft team, carried out an investigation and Carolan was subsequently arrested on Tuesday, 14 February and charged with theft from the railway, driving without insurance and a road traffic offence.
At sentencing, Carolan was given 20-months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, ordered to carry out 180 hours unpaid work and must pay £400 compensation to Network Rail.
Carolan was also given a CRABSO (criminal anti-social behaviour order) which states he must not enter any Network Rail property, including all stations across England and Wales, for the next three years.
He is also disqualified from driving for 12 months and must not enter any premises registered for the processes of metal.
Detective Inspector Mick Jackson, of BTP’s Operation Leopard investigation team, said: “Carolan unlawfully entered railway tracks, a dangerous act in itself, and continued to break the law as he stole equipment which is essential to the running of Tyne and Wear Metro.
“Luckily this took place at a time when Metro trains were not running – had this happened during operating times it would have caused havoc to commuters’ journeys.
“Thanks to covert cameras across the Metro system we were able to swiftly look back and, with intelligence from our colleagues at Northumbria Police, quickly identify Carolan.
“As part of our efforts to trace those responsible for cable theft we visit scrap yards in the area as most cable thieves look for the quickest way to sell on the stolen goods – scrap yards are one such method.
“We work closely with scrap yards owners to monitor any metals which are brought in and, with assistance from railway and telecoms experts, can quickly identify stolen goods.”
In a separate offence, a prolific cable thief was also sentenced earlier this month after pleading guilty to theft from the railway.
Jason Chisholm (26) of Neville Road, Pallion, Sunderland, was sentenced at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 13 March. He was given a 12 month community order and told to work 100 hours unpaid work after a spate of incidents across Sunderland during the past six months.
Phil Verster, Network Rail route managing director, said: “The irresponsible behaviour of greedy thieves is causing massive inconvenience to passengers across the north-east. Not only are they putting themselves in danger, they are forcing us to use slow and outdated methods of moving trains in order to protect passengers.
“The delay caused by these crimes costs us all millions of pounds every year through missed appointments and delayed freight deliveries. This is unacceptable. We are protecting our network better than ever using security patrols, CCTV and forensic marking. This case shows that, working with the BTP, we will find the thieves, bring them to court and seek the toughest penalties.”
Ken Mackay, Director of Rail and Infrastructure for Nexus, which owns the Tyne and Wear Metro, said: “The net is closing in on cable thieves. This case should serve as a warning to others who are thinking about targeting the Tyne and Wear Metro system.
“We will continue to work closely with the police to protect our network. It is a crime which has the potential to cause an enormous amount of disruption to passengers and a significant cost in terms of repairs. The thieves also risk their lives by tampering with live cables at side of the track.
“Nexus is also working with industry partners to seek tighter laws covering the sale of scrap metal so that the thieves cannot make any gain from stolen cable.”
Anyone with information that relates to cable or metal theft from the railway is asked to contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40. Information can also be passed to the independent charity, Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.