Police make arrest in connection to suspected illegal scrap metal dealing investigation in Banbury area

Observant officers not fooled by fake number plates as alleged illegal scrap metal dealers were caught in the act.

A switch of number plates proved no match for Cherwell District Council’s eagle-eyed community safety team last week as alleged illegal scrap metal dealers were caught in the act.

Acting on information that individuals stopped in Drayton near Banbury on Saturday April 10 would be in Bicester on Sunday April 11, the team were able to make possible an arrest following a chase across the town by police officers.

Richard Webb, assistant director for Regulatory Services and Community Safety, said: “These suspects may have thought they could pull the wool over our eyes by changing their registration plates, but they underestimated our persistence and our desire to keep our area safe and free from crime.”

The individuals were seen in Drayton collecting scrap metal on Saturday April 10. Following initial work with the police it was suspected that two men were operating without the correct licences and without insurance for their large white transit van.

The operation on Sunday April 11 involved a search of Bicester estates by the community safety team. The team eventually witnessed the driver and passenger from the previous day, plus a third person, loading scrap metal into the same van, which now had different number plates.

The vehicle was stopped and seized by the police on Leach Road, whereupon the suspects fled on foot. The driver, a 32-year-old male from the West Midlands, was arrested following a short chase for: driving whilst disqualified, driving under the influence, and driving without insurance.

The two remaining passengers were detained and their identification verified about half an hour later at Bicester North Train Station. The council will investigate all three men under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 with a view to prosecuting them.

Police made an arrest in connection with an illegal scrap metal dealing investigation (Image from Cherwell District Council)

If convicted in a magistrates' court they could face a fine of up to £50,000, or 12 months’ imprisonment. Illegal waste disposal in a public place can attract an unlimited fine and up to five years’ imprisonment for those convicted in a crown court.

Richard Webb added: “Partnership work is key to effective enforcement in our area. I am delighted that through their close work with the police our officers were able provide intelligence, which ultimately took three alleged criminals off the streets.

“The residents who left their scrap out for these men may well have done so in good faith. But the law says that anyone who entrusts their waste to someone who goes on to fly-tip it can be fined up to £1,000.

“We have reason to believe that these suspects were advertising their illegal service on Facebook.

"Choosing to do business with someone you have met in the comments section of a social media post can be very risky. All residents should use the Environment Agency website to check if the people they want to remove their waste are legitimate.”

If approached in person by a scrap dealer, or anyone else offering cash to remove waste, residents should request proof of their license before allowing them to take the unwanted items away.

People can search the public register of waste carriers at this address: www.environment.data.gov.uk/public-register/view/search-waste-carriers-brokersScrap metal collectors can register with the council via this page: www.cherwell.gov.uk/scraplicence