Church Maintenance Support Officer recognised for role in bringing metal theft gang to justice
Matthew Cooper, Church Maintenance Support Officer in the Diocese of London and previously the Diocese of Lincoln, has won the exceptional rural initiative prize in the National Metal Theft Taskforce Awards Ceremony for helping to bring to justice a group of criminals who had been stripping church roofs of their lead.
Matthew received the award alongside Detective Constable Richard Nethercott and Dr Dale Dishon of English Heritage.
The award recognised his support, while working in the Diocese of Lincoln, of an investigation into the theft of lead from church roofs by a group of organised criminals who had targeted remote rural churches, stealing over 70 tonnes of lead.
Thanks partly to Matthew’s support for the investigation, all the defendants were convicted and received custodial sentences and one of the biggest metal theft and heritage crimes ever brought to justice.
Metal theft is a serious issue for churches and Matthew has continued his efforts to combat it since joining the Diocese of London’s Parish Property Support team. The team works with London churches to protect against theft, and to offer support when thefts occur. They have also been working closely with the City of London and Metropolitan police forces to provide a better planned response to thefts.
Churches are particularly vulnerable to this type of crime and because many roofs are not visible from the ground the damage caused by a theft can remain undetected for some time and can lead to major problems with water leaking into the building. This can lead to serious damage to the interiors of these historic buildings as well as the loss of the roofing material.
"Churches have been hit harder than any other type of building, and in each case the emotional impact is devastating. I’m really pleased that this award has brought attention not only to the plight of church buildings, but also to the good work that is being done by different agencies working together."