Ministers are seeking to reassure businesses with steel fencing and metal railings by increasing the penalties given to metal thieves for handling stolen goods.

Any metal dealers convicted of any crime relating to metal theft will be barred from legitimately operating in the sector, under new plans unveiled by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Under the plans, dodgy scrap metal dealers will have their licences revoked if they are found to be criminally associated with any thefts.

Environment minister Lord Taylor explained: "Mindless criminals who steal from our railways and historic buildings, and the scrap dealers who fuel the market, are causing misery and anger for countless people.

He added that new measures will attempt to purge the industry of its "rotten elements".

Earlier this month, police in North Yorkshire took more stringent action to tackle metal theft.

A new logging system will enable officers to record details of metal thefts more accurately, in a bid to better understand the process and other factors pertaining to offences.

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