Thieves strike at city church

St Joseph's, Church, Millfield, Sunderland, that has had lead stolen from the roof.

St Joseph's, Church, Millfield, Sunderland, that has had lead stolen from the roof.

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METAL thieves have targeted another Wearside church after a string of similar attacks.

Raiders struck at St Jospeh’s in Millfield, stripping lead off the building roof and causing more than £2,000-worth of damage.

Congregation member Diane English said: “The community are going to have find money to carry out the repairs somehow.”

Diane also said there was an ongoing problem with youths climbing onto the church roof and throwing off tiles.

She added: “You can’t talk to these young people - they just don’t respond to anything.

“Even when we are in the church, you can hear them up on the roof and damage is being done.”

The metal theft is the latest in a spate of similar incidents across Sunderland and Durham.

Emergency talks were held last month between church leaders and police in a bid to tackle the problem.

They will be joining forces with council planning chiefs and members of the community to come up with ways to combat the issue.

Reverend Paul Judson, of Durham diocese, which covers Durham and Sunderland, said: “Theft of metal is a huge problem and is wider than the church, but Church of England congregations are custodians of many of the most significant buildings in the communities they serve.”

He added: “Many have been victims of theft with some having been hit several times.

“As a consequence, insurance cover has often had to be limited.

“The damage can be extensive, not just to the building but to interior fixtures and fittings, as church congregations often don’t discover the theft until rainwater pours into the building.”

In 2008, claims of metal thefts at churches across Durham Diocese hit 60, costing more than £170,000.

Since then, there have been a further 90 claims. The cost of all claims since 2007 stands at £465,000.

Last August, thieves struck at St Nicholas’s Church, West Boldon, for the second time in a year, when more than £16,000-worth of lead was stripped from the roof of the south aisle.

In April 2008, Lee Everist, 24, of Fern Crescent, Seaham, was jailed for five months after admitting stealing £20,000 of lead from St John’s Church in the town.

The theft took place just two weeks after £100,000-worth of work had been carried out on the roof.

In March last year, thieves scaled Houghton Methodist Church, ripping off all the metal – which turned out to be worthless – leaving a gaping hole which cost more than £2,000 to fix.