A Man who offered an “incredible” explanation as to how he came into possession of stolen copper wire has been warned he faces jail.
Livingston Sheriff Court heard that Stephen Dalton was caught red-handed burning the insulation off the stolen metal in the back garden of his flat in Bathgate, West Lothian.
The father-of-one, described by defence lawyer Ali Murray as “not one of life’s philosophers”, was netted after officers spotted a thick plume of black smoke rising from behind the building.
Kate Hart, prosecuting, said: “Some of the cabling had already been burnt off and was lying on the ground next to him.
“The accused stated that he’d found the cable nearby and he was burning it off to take to a scrap merchant.
“The officers extinguished the fire and took possession of the cabling. When cautioned and charged, the accused made no comment.”
Miss Hart added that the she did not know the value of the cable, which had been reported stolen from a local construction site at the weekend.
Dalton, 27, pleaded guilty to stealing the cable without attempting to discover the true owner and burning insulation from it in an open area to recover the copper.
Mr Murray, defending, told the court that his client lived off Income Support and Disability Living Allowance, adding: “His position is he was approached by an acquaintance he refuses to name who offered him £50 to strip the metal cable of its plastic coating so it could be forwarded to a scrap dealer.
“He tells me that with Christmas coming up he thought it was easy money.
“He was doing this in a residential car park surrounded by 50 flats in full view of his neighbours. It was only with the arrival of police officers that it began to dawn on Mr Dalton that he was involved in this relatively serious offence.”
Sheriff Robert Fife described Dalton’s version of events as “incredible” and warned him that if he had been passing sentence immediately he’d have sent him to prison. The case was adjourned until January for background reports.
In August 2011 Edinburgh City Council revealed scrap metal thefts across the city had caused £150,000 worth of damage in a matter of weeks. In June this year it the estimated cost to the UK economy was put at £770 million.