Britain Stiffens Fines for Handset Theft

Most stolen phones are blocked within 48 hours, and now, phone thieves face up to five years in jail and unlimited fines

The government is introducing stiff new penalties for the reprogramming of stolen mobile phones in an effort to eradicate handset theft.

Four-fifths of stolen mobile phones are blocked within 48 hours, according to research from industry body the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum.

And now, from tomorrow, anyone found offering to or agreeing to reprogramme a mobile phone will face up to five years in jail and/or an unlimited fine.

Currently police officers have to catch someone in the act of reprogramming a mobile before they can arrest them. The new measure is part of the Violent Crime Reduction Act which received Royal Assent on 8 November last year.

Home Secretary John Reid said the government is determined to stamp out mobile phone theft and that's why mobile thieves are being dealt a double whammy.

Reid said in a statement: "Because crimes - like mobiles themselves - are always changing we will now work with the industry and police to anticipate the crimes of the future so we can design out problems in the next generation of phones before they develop."

Research from System Concepts found the five major operators - 3, O2, Orange, T-mobile and Vodafone – are now blocking more than 80 per cent of stolen mobile phones within the 48-hour time period.

The government and mobile phone operators announced a commitment to help cut mobile phone street thefts last year after phone pilfering contributed to an eight per cent rise in UK robbery.

The five major operators also signed a charter last year that saw them agreeing to block stolen phones across each of the UK's networks within 48 hours – or face having their failures exposed.

Glasgow was named as the city with the highest rate of mobile phone theft in the UK, with nearly one-third of Glaswegians surveyed having had their handset stolen, according to research from card and mobile protection company CPP.

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