A record number of electricity thefts were recorded across England and Wales last year, new figures show.
Electricity theft – which can be carried out by tampering with a line or bypassing a meter – has the potential to cause serious injury and is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Though already an increasing problem, the National Energy Action (NEA) campaign group said it was ‘horrifying’ that more people could be turning to the illegal practice to keep their lights on amid a growing energy crisis.
Home Office figures show police forces across England and Wales received 3,600 reports of ‘dishonest use of electricity’ in the year to March – up 13% on 2020-21, and the most since comparable records began in 2012-13.
Around 1,100 of these occurred between January and March – almost double the number recorded over the same period in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Stay Energy Safe, operated by Crimestoppers, warned that tampering with a meter can lead to wires overheating, damage to property and potentially loss of life.
It said the crime costs energy companies a minimum of £440 million each year – with these costs then passed on to customers.
An Ofgem spokesperson said ‘under no circumstances should consumers attempt to connect electricity meters themselves’.
But the NEA said the cost-of-living crisis is forcing people into ‘increasingly desperate situations’ where they are looking to avoid energy use – including using candles instead of lights – or possibly resorting to electricity theft.
Peter Smith, NEA director of policy and advocacy, said: ‘This is not only illegal but dangerous too, and it’s horrifying if the crisis is forcing households to try this to keep the lights on.
‘And this is happening now, before winter and the cold weather hits.’
When former chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a cost-of-living support package in May, the NEA said the predicted average annual energy bill from October could hit £2,800 – but this figure is now expected to reach £3,358.
Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey shocked Britain yesterday with the gloomiest economic warning for decades.
He said the UK will collapse into a year-long recession by the end of 2022 – its longest since the 2008 financial crisis and as deep as the one in the 1990s – with inflation peaking at more than 13% stoked by the soaring price of gas and fuel this winter.
Food, fuel, gas and numerous other items are rocketing in price following the pandemic and the war in Ukraine – hitting record levels – but some economists have claimed that the BofE has been too slow to act as Britain careers towards recession.
Mr Smith added: ‘More support is desperately needed to close this gap and help the most vulnerable keep themselves warm and safe this winter.’
Across the two nations, 57% of electricity theft cases closed last year had no suspect identified, while 30% were abandoned due to evidential difficulties and 7% resulted in a charge or summons.
The Government said it is providing £37 billion to help households with the cost of living.
A spokesperson for the government said: ‘We are committed to cracking down on crime, including the criminal theft of electricity, which causes serious injury to people and damage to property.’
This just shows that if a white man is in the situation Nigeria is today, they will behave exactly like the Nigerians are behaving. They will be just as corrupt and cheat the system at any opportunity! They are no better than us. Only that they are in a more organised setting. Period.