A Banbury scrap dealer has today (Thursday) been ordered to pay a £1,750 fine after being convicted of attempting to disguise, convey or conceal criminal property.
On March 25, Joseph Smith, 24, of Milton Road, Adderbury, pleaded not guilty to six counts. Yesterday (Wednesday) an Oxford Crown Court jury convicted him of four counts and today (Thursday) he was found guilty of one further count and acquitted of the remaining count.
The convictions relate to Smith’s agreement to buy lengths of stripped copper cable from undercover police officers known as Andy and Kinger, who visited the Smiths of Bloxham scrap yard some 33 times between December 2011 and May 2012 as part of a force-wide crackdown on scrap metal theft known as Operation Symphony.
On April 4, May 1, 9 and 15, Smith purchased lengths of stripped power cable, on each occasion weighing them before issuing an invoice for payment.
Then on May 15 he was involved in the purchase of a Mitsubishi FTO vehicle and more lengths of copper cable.
None of the offered goods were stolen but the prosecution alleged Smith knew or believed them to be so.
Defending Smith, Justin Houghton-Roberts said the goods sold to him were not in fact stolen so he had been unfairly and repeatedly “tricked” as the police returned to the yard “again and again”.
He said: “The plan was to put an idea into the minds of an honest citizen and then prosecute them for having an idea.”
He said the Smiths contacted Banbury police on May 15 asking them to take a look at the Mitsubishi vehicle which was found not to be stolen, and issued “traceable numbered receipts” for each of the lengths of cable purchased.
John Law, prosecuting, said Andy and Kinger told Smith the car was “nicked from Wales”, to which he replied: “you’re getting worse and worse you two”.
No photographic identification or registration documents required by law were sought in relation to the vehicle, he said, and only on one occasion did Smith ask where the lengths of cable had come from or whether they were stolen.
Sentencing Smith today, Judge Pringle QC said: “It’s of course right that you were attempting to do the impossible because as we all know the property was being brought in by undercover police officers with the intention of seeing whether your scrap yard were prepared to take criminal property.
“I’ve no doubt that come the final offence you suspected the goods were stolen, in fact you knew them to be stolen because you were told.”
Judge Pringle said Smith was a man of previous good character.
Smith is the youngest of eight brothers who together with their father Peter and auntie Pauline run the Smiths scrapyard at Bloxham.
Mr Houghton-Roberts stated Joey did not have a decision making role in the business and would call his father whenever considering purchasing goods, but on Smith’s conviction added: “Probably the most sobering thing is that he understands the convictions have brought disgrace upon his father’s company and that of his grandfather before him.”
Smith was ordered to pay the fine in £50 weekly instalments. He was also ordered to pay £2,500 court costs.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict on one count of the same charge alleged to have been committed by Smith’s brother, Tommy Smith, 36, of Milton Road, Bloxham.