Men steal metal from chapel in Whixley

TWO unemployed men, desperate for cash, crossed three counties in a vehicle in a dangerous condition to hunt for scrap metal, a court was told on Tuesday.

Harrogate magistrates heard how the pair came across three trestles and 13 counter-weights from sash windows which had been left outside a former Methodist chapel in High Street, Whixley, near Knaresborough, which was being converted into a dwelling.

Prosecutor Martin Butterworth said the men began to throw the items onto a flatbed truck but a neighbour looking out of his bedroom window saw what was happening, took the vehicle’s registered number and reported the activity to police.

Mr Butterworth said officers had stopped the truck on the A658 near Knaresborough. At the wheel had been Daniel Hancock, 24 with his passenger 23-year-old Steven Kerley.

The pair, from Barnsley, each pleaded guilty to theft with Hancock also admitting possession of cannabis, found during a police search, and using a motor vehicle likely to cause danger to any person in it, or on it, or on a road.

Mr Butterworth said the Ford Transit-type flatbed van had a passenger seat which was not securely anchored to the floor, corroded seat belts, a prop shaft bearing bush which was described as dilapidated, defective lights and a low brake fluid level.

In mitigation Philip Stables said the two men were both out of work. They were finding it difficult ‘‘to make ends meet’’ on benefits so Hancock and a friend bought a van for £850 with a view to trying to get work doing gardening and collecting scrap.

They had been told of difficulties in North Yorkshire with disposal of fridges and ‘‘they thought they would collect some and take them back to South Yorkshire.’’

In Whixley they came across renovation work and saw scrap worth about £40 in the front yard. ‘‘They were eager and took it to weigh it in,’’ said Mr Stables.

He said Hancock had been ‘‘very surprised’’ at the problems police found with his van which he had recently bought with a 10-month MoT certificate and which he had now sold for £400.

Hancock and Kerley were each fined £65 for theft with £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Hancock was fined £30 for cannabis possession with a destruction order on the seized drug and no separate penalty for the dangerous vehicle which court chairman Paul Gregory told him would have been seized, because it had been used for crime, had no not disposed of it.