A THIEF risked death by 11,000 volts when he stole copper cable from a power station to sell for scrap.
Trevor Murray, pictured, took 25 metres of earth cable from a substation at Richmond Street, Sunderland.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the theft cost energy company NEDL £500 to replace and repair.
But the court heard it could have cost the 25-year-old thief, and the customers supplied power from the substation, a whole lot more.
Prosecutor Diane Spence read a statement to the court from NEDL employee Malcolm Graham, who described cable thefts as a massive problem across the UK which cause serious financial loss.
Mr Graham said: “In addition to the financial implications, I also have serious concerns for the welfare of those involved in thefts from our premises.
“At the time the cable is cut and removed there is immediate danger to their lives, and they are faced with being electrocuted with anything from 400 to 11,000 volts.
“There is also potential danger threatened to customers who may receive an excessive voltage supply to their premises as a result of the damage caused.”
The court heard a similar theft in Hull led to fire damage in six homes, and electrical appliance damage at 200 houses.
No damage was caused to homes in Sunderland, but the company was alerted to what had happened by a customer complaint about their supply.
Murray, who was subject to a conditional discharge for stealing diesel from a garage, admitted theft in July last year.
Recorder Henry Prosser jailed Murray, of the Mayfair Building, Eden Vale, for 11 months.
The judge told him: “There has been, unhappily, so many instances of theft of cable in recent months that the courts are forced to take a very serious view of this form of offending.
“The message has to get out that if anyone offends in this way and is brought to justice a prison sentence will inevitably follow.
“The danger not only to yourself but the supply of high voltage to others is obvious, as well as the huge inconvenience if electricity is withdrawn from businesses and householders because of loss of cable.
“It is a thriving industry among certain types of criminal at the present time.”
Warren Grier, defending, said Murray was living in his car at the time after the break-up of a relationship, and “did not think about the consequences”.