Worcestershire and Solihull drain cover thief jailed

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Media captionGraham Leith was arrested after drain covers were found in a van he was driving

A former fireman has been jailed for three and a half years after stealing 185 metal drain covers.

Graham Leith, 27, of High Street, Studley admitted stealing the covers from streets in Worcestershire and Solihull, to fund a cannabis habit.

Worcester Crown Court heard Leith sold them to scrap dealers for £10 each, although they cost local councils £45,000 to replace.

Leith was told he would serve half of his sentence on licence.

In jailing Leith, judge John Steel QC said: "You were wholly reckless in your disregard to the public and it was simple good luck that no one was injured."

The offences happened between November 2011 and January 2012.

'Lives at risk'

West Mercia Police said Leith was arrested after a member of the public contacted police in the early hours of 17 January 2012, to report a rental van acting suspiciously.

Officers, who had been investigating reports of drain covers being stolen in the area, stopped the van, being driven by Leith, and found nearly 20 drain covers in the back.

The court heard the theft of drain covers had been common in Worcestershire, with more than 1,000 stolen in the county between mid 2011 and early 2012, costing the local authority more than £250,000.

Worcestershire County Council said it was now replacing broken and stolen drain covers with non-metallic ones.

Councillor John Smith, responsible for Highways and Transport, said: "Unfortunately, the theft of drain covers is a real problem and the scale of this one case in particular highlights this.

"Not only does it cost the residents of Worcestershire money but criminal acts like this put lives at risk."

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