‘A lot of damage for a few pounds-worth of scrap’ – Sunderland priest’s lament at lead thefts

Rev Stephen Osman at the former rectory of St Oswald's Church in Shiney Row, where lead had been stripped from the roof.

Rev Stephen Osman at the former rectory of St Oswald's Church in Shiney Row, where lead had been stripped from the roof.

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A VICAR today warned that lead thieves could be causing serious damage to church buildings for the sake of a “few pounds worth” of scrap metal.

Reverend Stephen Osman, priest-in-charge of churches in Herrington, Penshaw and Shiney Row, spoke out after a teenager admitted his part in a raid on a rectory.

Yesterday, Josh Major pleaded guilty to a charge of theft when he appeared at court.

The 18-year-old, from Washington, was told by a judge that he could face jail when he is sentenced next month.

Revd Osman, speaking after the hearing, said the value of the lead stolen from the building at St Oswald’s Church in Shiney Row, was likely to be dwarfed by the cost to repair the damage.

“In many cases, the cost to repair the damage caused by the thieves is a lot more than the actual lead is worth,” he said. Not only does it leave the building open to the elements, with rain causing further problems, but there is also collateral damage.

“The lead is thrown off the roof and it can hit gravestones and other monuments.

“It can cost a lot of money to put things right again.

“There can be a lot of damage for a few pounds-worth of lead.”

During the case at Newcastle Crown Court, it was said the stolen lead was later found by police, dumped in the church grounds.

Major pleaded guilty to a charge of theft on April 6.

Glen Gatland, defending, said: “He accepts he was in the grounds of the vicarage, he accepts he was involved in the theft of the lead, but denies he was on the roof.”

Mr Gatland said Major’s defence team will provide evidence of a serious knee injury to show he would have been unable to get up on to the roof.

Mr Gatland said: “He could not have been on the roof, but accepts he was there.”

The court heard Major is due to start a welding course.

The case was adjourned until next month and Major, of Southcroft, Fatfield, Washington, was granted bail in the meantime.

However, Judge Simon Hickey said: “I make it absolutely plain, no promises are made to you about what the sentence will be.

“All options will be open to the sentencing judge and that includes custody.”

The rectory is owned by the Diocese or Durham and occupied by a tenant.