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back to article BT copper-cable choppers cop 16 months in the cooler

Two men have been jailed for 16 months for nicking large volumes of copper cable from BT's network. The pair posed as workmen to swipe the metal, cutting off telephone and internet connections to hundreds of homes and businesses. Daryl Carslake, 30, and Gavin Marriott, 28, both of Epsom, Surrey, were sentenced at Southwark Crown …

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Off the net

May I suggest they are in cells with no electricity, might give a further disincentive to cable magpies?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Off the net

Or copper cages, with electricity passing through them...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Off the net

and some blunt cutters.

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Coat

Re: Off the net

Electrified copper cages won't work. Faraday shields and all that!

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Re: ... cells with no electricity ...

Actually, I think their cell should be supplied with PLENTY of electricity, with their bunk being connected to the mains live conductor, and a copper sheet covering the floor, connected to ground. BZZZT!

Barring that, then administer daily a 50,000 volt taser zap to the nuts. BZZZT!

On the other hand, hang them from an 11kV line, and wait for one of them to "walk" toward the insulator, in an attempt to get down to the ground. BZZZT!

One of those choices will get the point across.

Hey elReg, where is the BOFH icon????

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N2

Re: Off the net

But with just enough of the stuff to hang them selves.

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"...a passing council permit officer."

Now that was a genuine jobsworth job.

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"Now that was a genuine jobsworth job."

Well, he at least did a good job of it. I guess things like this prove that there is indeed a good reason to have people doing that role!

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I had actually meant it in a positive way - as in the job he did there was worth his job.

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Anonymous Coward

16 months? after about 8 they will walk. Totally ridiculous given the huge financial impact this can have on businesses.

Should be 5 years at least, ideally 10.

If they hacked a computer and caused the same amount of damage they would be looking at many years of bird.

Not to mention fraud and deception, as they fraudulently pretended to be BT workmen.

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WTF?

Why should "the huge financial impact this can have on businesses" be the determining factor when considering a sentence? Businesses make continuity plans to cope with unexpected situations like this...

How about the fact that hundreds of homes were left without telephone services, some of whom are likely to be elderly or infirm and may depend on their phone line in order to call 999?

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"Should be 5 years at least, ideally 10."

It's light, but 5-10 is patiently absurd. That's more than you'd get for rape or manslaughter.

"fraudulently pretended to be BT workmen."

And how is that worse than kicking in someone's door with a baseball bat in hand?

I'm all for suitable punishment, but the moment that you make the punishments for non-violent theft worse than those for violent crime you send a message that it's better for criminals to resort to violence and the entire punishment system fails as any kind of deterrent to violence.

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Stop

"are likely to be elderly or infirm and may ..."

And yet none of them died due to the theft. We can't sentence people based on 'perhaps' scenarios, can we?

Otherwise we could have court session where the prosecutor argues for 5 years for petty offence because of what *might* occur in the wake of it. I don't want to live in a society where common thieves are punished for the hypothetical rather than the actual. It wastes court time and makes a mockery of sentencing guidelines and the wider judicial system.

Ultimately, you've got to sentence based on the real outcome of crimes, rather than whatever worse-case-heart-wrenching piece of propaganda the media or prosecution can dream up. And additionally it needs to be within the framework of other sentencing. Stealing a bunch of cable is a wanky thing to do that in my world deserves a kick in the balls from every person inconvenienced by the theft (everyone lines up, delivers a kick to the happy sacks over a period of several weeks during which time the guys are in the slammer, and then they can wear a ankle-bracelet and clean up dog poo for a few hundred hours under curfew. Job done), but it's not worse than pretty much any violent crime, and shouldn't be penalised more than violent crime.

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"16 months? after about 8 they will walk..."

Why not lock them up until BT have restored all the services back to normal. Give them the same duration of disruption as their victims.

Or is waiting for BT too harsh a punishment?

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WTF?

@Psyx "Perhaps" scenarios

We can and do sentence people on perhaps scenarios - attempted [X], dangerous driving, negligence, and espionage to name but a few.

The actual outcome is doubtless of prime importance, but to totally ignore the subjunctive is equally as silly. It's the courts' job to weigh up which risk scenarios were unacceptably brought into play and they are usually quite good at that. I'd be very worried if someone was sentenced for disturbing a butterfly on the basis that it could cause adverse weather elsewhere in the world, but I'd be absolutely disgusted if someone cut the power to a hospital and got off scot free because, by some miracle, no-one died in the time before the emergency supply kicked in.

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Devil

It was non-violent.

Its only money.

You sound like the type who rather lose a leg than a tenner.

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Anonymous Coward

regarding "16 months? after about 8 they will walk. Totally ridiculous given the huge financial impact this can have on businesses. Should be 5 years at least, ideally 10. If they hacked a computer and caused the same amount of damage they would be looking at many years of bird. Not to mention fraud and deception, as they fraudulently pretended to be BT workmen. "

I completely agree .

Thinking on people who have hacked systems , for their own selfish gain , what can we do with Bankers who hijack and hack the international finance system ? often only just within the permitted laws. They cause countless losses to many people.

sorry for going off topic, and hijacking this forum ( for my own political point ) !!

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Pour encourager les autres

That's more than you'd get for rape or manslaughter.

And arguably it should be. With those crimes there is one victim, seriously affected. With cable theft there are hundreds, thousands, even millions of victims.

At present they are getting away with it. In wartime it would be called "sabotage" and would be seen as a capital crime, punished much the same as treason. An appointment with the hangman would be quite likely.

Personally I'd say work out the economic damage caused by crimes that wilfully damage infrastructures, and sentence them to what they'd get for stealing the same amount of money from a bank's safe. What would yet get for breaking into a safe and emptying it of a million quid? Five to ten years sounds about right.

And the best thing is that with this sort of crime, one heavy sentence would convince just about all criminals to go back to the sort of theft where there is only one victim, where the gain to the criminal is not a tiny fraction of the cost to society.

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FAIL

Half of BT and all of TalkTalk

should be inside then.

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FAIL

Re: Pour encourager les autres

"And arguably it should be. With those crimes there is one victim, seriously affected. With cable theft there are hundreds, thousands, even millions of victims."

It's only arguable if you're a bean-counter. There is no doubt in my mind that murder and rape are far more serious crimes than making a few grand and hurrying along someone's fibre upgrade.

"At present they are getting away with it. In wartime it would be called "sabotage" and would be seen as a capital crime, punished much the same as treason. An appointment with the hangman would be quite likely."

No it wouldn't. There are no such things as capital crimes within the EU. Thankfully.

"Personally I'd say work out the economic damage caused by crimes that wilfully damage infrastructures, and sentence them to what they'd get for stealing the same amount of money from a bank's safe."

Yeah... and who do you believe? Those people who say "hacker cost us £500,000!!!" or "flu outbreak cost economy £50 billion". We all know those figures are grossly inflated. And it's simply unethical to lock someone up based on creative accounting after the fact.

"What would yet get for breaking into a safe and emptying it of a million quid? Five to ten years sounds about right."

Is ten years of someone's life worth a million quid? Really?

Although you'd get more. Because our criminal system is ultimately a legacy of rich people. So large-scale thefts are actually punished heavily. Rob the wrong safe of a million and you get 20 years. Fiddle a million in fraud though and you'll get a couple.

"And the best thing is that with this sort of crime, one heavy sentence would convince just about all criminals to go back to the sort of theft where there is only one victim, where the gain to the criminal is not a tiny fraction of the cost to society."

Um. No. It doesn't work like that. By all means create a new crime like "buggering up our infrastructure" and set harsh penalties, but trying to caveat existing theft laws legally is a bad course of action that undermines and complicates further sentencing guidelines.

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This wouldn't happen

if everyone had fibre.

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Joke

grammar

"to totally ignore the subjunctive is equally as silly"

"I'd be very worried if someone was sentenced,,,"

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RE: ...huge financial impact this can have on businesses...

BT, would have the right to seek compensation in a civil action should they choose to do so.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pour encourager les autres

"Is ten years of someone's life worth a million quid? Really?"

Based on an average salary of £26.5k. Allowing for £500 a year increase for inflation, its probably a little high, but close enough.

£268,500.00

No, it's not worth a million quid, they'd need just under 40 years for that

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"It's light, but 5-10 is patiently absurd. That's more than you'd get for rape or manslaughter."

Let's see... interfering with the 999 services, for starters.

The penalties need to be set so high that wannabe cable nickers will think twice about it - and that includes coming down like a nuclear weapon on the yards which handle stolen goods.

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Holmes

Re: Pour encourager les autres

"No, it's not worth a million quid, they'd need just under 40 years for that"

Except that money is worth less than human life, morally.

Hell: Money isn't even a thing that physically exists in any real sense any more. Some numbers of a spreadsheet aren't worth more than a human life. When a Wall Street dealer loses 5 million for an investment bank in a day of trading, it's not as bad as putting 5 people up against a wall and putting bullets in their faces.

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Happy

Silver Linings

...but are BT replacing it all with fibre?

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Re: Silver Linings

That would make the most sense*. I don't think there is much resale value in fibre. Unfortunately it probably won't stop the scrotes from taking it anyway and then look uncomprehendingly as the bent scrap metal dealer explains to them why he won't be buying the 500m of cable from them.

* does BT do sense?

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Holmes

Re: Silver Linings

BT should nick the copper cables themselves and use it to fund fibre...

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Re: Silver Linings

The problem with replacing it with fibre is, iirc, the pstn service is still provided over the copper, the fibre is only providing the vdsl service. So you'd need to replace with fibre, plus adding all the equipment to handle the phones at the same time, which would take a lot longer then just replacing the cable.

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Pirate

Re: Silver Linings

I rather think it was El Reg who told us that you could buy BT for less than the value of the copper they owned.

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Re: Silver Linings

Over here, Germany, they are moving to VOIP over DSL as the standard connection, unless the customer specifically asks for an analogue or ISDN connection.

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Re: Silver Linings

Turns out BT's sitting on anywhere from £2.5 to £5bn of copper. Guardian.

The Guardian fixed their article (see the footnote). The Register's article is still wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Silver Linings

> VOIP over DSL as the standard connection

You don't have any minimum service guarantees, then? Telcos used to aim for 5-nines or 6-nines availability, VOIP over DSL would be lucky to get to 4-nines.

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Re: Silver Linings

They should have read their old article about Peter Cochrane http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/22/peter_cochrane_profile/

who suggested BT should be mining their copper decades ago....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Silver Linings

The one advantage you get with a proper landline telephone is the knowledge that even if you get a power cut at home the phone will still work. VOIP over ADSL would need local power.

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Re: Silver Linings

"The problem with replacing it with fibre is, iirc, the pstn service is still provided over the copper "

Well no, the idea is that you have VoIP but over a managed network not the public internet. If you want to use legacy hardware you can have an interface in the premeses. The real problem is that it relies on having a power supply in the premeses, whereas copper powers your phone from the exchange allowing you to make emergency calls during a power cut. With most people now owning mobile phones that's less of a problem than it used to be.

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Re: Silver Linings

Apart from the couple of seconds DHCP lease renewal, I haven't experienced any downtime yet.

As to powercuts, yes, that would be a problem but we had ISDN before and the PABX needed power as well, so no change there, and we haven't had a powercut since we moved in 3 years ago.

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Go

Re: Silver Linings

Shouldn't be a problem with FTTC though. Run *something* for the power to said cabinet and you still have powered copper going into each property. It's not as though you're not already running new cables at the time...

Heck, you could even use copper for just the power, it would still be a fraction of the original amount.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Silver Linings

ISDN and PABX were never touted as domestic services (aside from the old BT Home highway ISDN2e lines), and therefore were usually accompanied by a few POTS lines (faxes usually) you could plug a phone in to at a push.

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Boffin

Re: Silver Linings

>Over here, Germany, they are moving to VOIP over DSL as the standard connection, unless the customer specifically asks for an analogue or ISDN connection.

This also done here in Denmark. It is expensive to get normal telephone line connected. Other then that everything is now done with VoIP over ADSL, fiber or television cable service.

I solved this issue. I don't have any normal home telephone for this reason. I just have mobile phone instead. That is good enough for me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Silver Linings

With most people now owning mobile phones that's less of a problem than it used to be.

Like saying "now we have compulsary crash helmets motorcycle deaths are not what they used to be"

ever tried finding your mobile in a hurry when your house is on fire and your kids trapped?

your landline phone is still in the same place

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Re: Silver Linings

cabinet-based concentrators have been around for decades. Copper in one side, fibre out the other. It means subscriber loops in the countryside are only a couple of km long instead of possibly 15-20

There's nothing stopping BT deploying these in their cabinets already. A number of telecom manufacturers (incluing huawei) make DSLAM+Voice kit (30 line devices were about the size of a VHS cassette 6 years ago, probably the same size now, but capable of handling 200+ lines)

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Re: Silver Linings

I believe those are called "batteries" and a couple of them used to be deployed in every subscriber's house about 70 years ago. Everyeady No6 cells would last about 20 years.

When microphone power started being supplied from the exchange, it was called "Central Battery" operations and telephone circuit diagrams contained details of wiring for local or central battery right up to the days that the BT type 100 and its derivatives went out of production in the mid 1970s.

When I were a nipper (in the late 70s), we lived in a rural environment with party lines, hand cranked phones, human operators connecting every call and local batteries. The last of those didn't entirely disappear until the late 1980s

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Re: Silver Linings

ISDN has been the standard here for years, for domestic use. Of the people I know, probably 80% used ISDN at home. At one point, if you wanted DSL, you had to have ISDN. That changed and you could also have it on an analogue line.

Now you just get DSL and no voice and a VOIP account from the provider.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Silver Linings

It seems like common sense but it's probably not.

I assume the thieves nicked a length of cable between joint boxes. It's 'quite hard' to splice a fibre into the middle of two sections of cable with hundreds or thousands of pairs of wires in it. You'd have to rip out all the copper on either side as well. Once you've done that, what do you terminate it on? I doubt their techs carry fully equipped fibre cabinets in the back of their vans, just in case, so that would be a problem.

To get people back in service quickly you'd have to replace like with like - else those people are out of action for weeks - maybe longer if the new cabinet needs planning permission and mains power provision.

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If the council official took the offenders photo and had the van registration number, I wonder why they were still free to commit the same crime three weeks later? It seems the police only arrested them when they were subsequently dropped into their laps by BT. A bit disappointing.

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Anonymous Coward

Just shows the quality of the police force.

We had a corner shop robbed near me, police officer had no idea what road he was on (it's one of the main roads in town) no idea what the adjoining roads were called, didn't know there was an alleyway behind the store (which his car was parked next to)

I swear they must hire a large portion of the force from the special needs departments of schools.

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