Harwich: Seven are sentenced for �1.5m track thefts

SEVEN railway industry workers, including a man from Harwich, have been sentenced for their parts in the theft of track and other materials worth up to �1.5million.

The “industrial scale” thefts from Network Rail projects saw lorry-loads of used rails diverted to unauthorised scrapyards.

A judge sitting at Birmingham Crown Court jailed John Burtenshaw, 53, from Buckingshire, Terence Doherty, 48, from Warrington, Stuart Amphlett, 33, from Birmingham, Paul Tandon, 47, from Great Barr, and 41-year-old Neil Jones, from Darlaston, for conspiracy to steal.

Two other men – Nicky Halloran, 27, from West Bromwich, and 43-year-old Roy Skinner of Gordon Road, Harwich – were given suspended sentences after admitting respective charges of conspiracy to steal and theft.

An earlier hearing was told that Doherty had been sub-contracted by rail firm Jarvis to remove track, and conspired with Burtenshaw, a Jarvis plant manager, to steal metal and sleepers which should have been taken to authorised recyclers.

The trial at Warwick Crown Court heard that Network Rail should have received the value of the scrap.

A lengthy investigation carried out by British Transport Police (BTP) revealed that Doherty and Burtenshaw used their positions to steal up to 3,500 tonnes of rail worth up to �1.5m.

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The offences first came to light in August 2008 when a scrap dealer check in Staffordshire revealed 208 tonnes of rail which was identified as having been removed from the Rugby upgrade project.

Subsequent inquiries implicated Jones and Tandon, who worked as supervisors for a sub-contractor, and Amphlett, who worked as a logistics manager for another firm.

Commenting on the case, Detective Sergeant Chris Hearn said: “There is no doubt that the actions of this organised group deprived Network Rail and, in turn rail users across the country, of valuable finance which could have been put towards maintenance and improvements.

“This case clearly shows just how damaging metal theft is to communities and, particularly, to the rail industry but it also demonstrates just how determined BTP is to tackle those who perceive the railway to be a soft target.”

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Sergeant Hearn, of BTP’s national metal theft team, stressed that the thefts had involved a very small group of individuals.

But those brought before the court had been found to be involved in “endemic” theft of materials.

Skinner, of Gordon Road, Harwich, Essex, was sentenced to nine months, suspended for 18 months and give 200 hours of unpaid work, having pleaded guilty to theft of 60 sleepers.

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