Sheriff discharges businessman accused of stealing scrap metal

A businessman accused of stealing scrap metal was given an absolute discharge when he appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court today.

Nigel Timberlake, 50, of Queens Lane, Lerwick, pleaded not guilty to stealing a quantity of aluminium and copper from the Co-op, Holmsgarth Road, on 2nd June last year but pleaded guilty taking the same quantity of metal from 60 North Recycling Ltd on 30th June.

The court heard that the “unusual” case involved 529kg of scrap left in a shed Mr Timberlake had previously rented to tenants from “another part of Europe”. When clearing the shed it was suggested there might be value in it, and Mr Timberlake, who had no idea where it had come from, sold it to 60 North Recycling.

He later went home and found the price he had been paid was “significantly” lower than the market price. Unhappy about this, he phoned the yard but was fobbed off, so went back the next day and returned the money, leaving it with a receptionist. Seeing his scrap was exactly where he had left it, he took it back. There was no dispute about this and Mr Timberlake thought he was entitled to take the scrap as he had returned the money. However the receptionist did not have authority to let him do this.

The case was described in court as “very much a technical crime as against wilful dishonesty”, and defence solicitor Tommy Allan said it resembled a “classic exam question” which was a “quasi-civil matter”.

Mr Allan said it was a semi-contractual situation in which a deal had been done and was only technically a theft.

After the incident the scrap yard contacted the police, who seized the scrap. Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said: “Nobody’s lost and nobody’s gained.”

Mr Allan said Mr Timberlake, a businessman with no convictions for dishonesty, had spent a total of 10 hours in custody over the incident for his “error of judgement”. Taking this into account, Sheriff Philip Mann gave Mr Timberlake an absolute discharge, saying he was satisfied any criminal intent was “minimal” and Mr Timberlake had “suffered through the unhappy chain of events”.


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