BY TOBY PORTER
Two men have been convicted of stealing free newspapers for recycling in what is believed to be the first ruling of its kind.
Jhon Mejia, 32 and Marcel Javier Larez-Serrano, 37, were spotted loading batches of free papers into the rear of a van on the evening of Thursday, April 6, 2017.
The number stolen at London Bridge, near the homes of those convicted, is believed to be more than 1,000. One of them is still on the run after being convicted in his absence.
When questioned by British Transport Police officers, they admitted planning to sell the batches to a paper recycling plant. They claimed they were being paid £30 each to do this by an undisclosed boss.
This ruling is the first to confirm the stealing of free newspapers as an offence, and opens the door for more convictions in the future.
Mejia, of Hampson Way, Lambeth, pleaded guilty to counts of theft and fraud committed in April 2017, December 2017, and January 2018, all relating to the excessive theft of newspapers at London Bridge station. He received a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, at Blackfriars Crown Court on Thursday, February 14.
He was also ordered to pay £200 in costs and carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.
Larez-Serrano, of Camilla Road, Bermondsey, was convicted in his absence for theft and fraud. He was sentenced to eight weeks in prison and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Detective Constable Mike Ganly, of British Transport Police, said: “This is a landmark ruling and has officially made the excessive theft of free newspapers an offence. It shows the efforts our officers take to identify and investigate new and emerging crimes.
“This has been a very intriguing case from a law perspective. With the help of the courts, we have sought to answer if something given away freely can be stolen.
“With the conviction of these two men, the answer is clear and we can seek to pursue similar crimes in the future.”