Directory: Churches and People

National Award for work in Diocese of Lincoln

28 March 2014

Former Lincoln Historic Churches Support Officer recognised for role in bringing metal theft gang to justice

Matthew Cooper has been recognised in the National Metal Theft Taskforce Awards for helping to bring to justice a group of criminals who had been stripping church roofs of their lead.

The Exceptional Rural Initiative prize has been awarded for work undertaken by Matthew during his time as Historic Churches Support Officer in the Diocese of Lincoln. Matthew is now employed as Church Maintenance Support Officer in the Diocese of London.

Matthew received the award alongside Detective Constable Richard Nethercott and Dr Dale Dishon of English Heritage.

The award recognised his support of an investigation into the theft of lead from church roofs by a group of organised criminals who had targeted remote rural churches in our diocese, stealing more than 70 tonnes of lead. Thanks partly to Matthew's support for the investigation, all the defendants were convicted and received custodial sentences in one of the biggest metal theft and heritage crimes ever brought to justice.

Matthew said: "Churches have been hit harder than any other type of building, and in each case the emotional impact is devastating.

"I'm really pleased that this award has brought attention not only to the plight of church buildings, but also to the good work that is being done by different agencies working together."

Metal theft is a serious issue for churches, and Matthew has continued his efforts to combat it since joining the Diocese of London's Parish Property Support team. The team works with London churches to protect against theft, and to offer support when thefts occur. They have also been working closely with the City of London and Metropolitan police forces to provide a better-planned response to thefts.

Churches are particularly vulnerable to this type of crime, and because many roofs are not visible from the ground, the damage caused by a theft can remain undetected for some time and can lead to major problems with water leaking into the building. This can cause serious damage to the interiors of these historic buildings, as well as the loss of the roofing material.

The Venerable Tim Barker, Archdeacon of Lincoln, said: "The theft of metals from churches, and the associated damage of the fabric of historic churches, has caused great anger and hurt in many rural communities across historic Lincolnshire.

"It is good news that the combined efforts of the staff of the Diocese of Lincoln, English Heritage and the Police have been acknowledged in these awards and we are especially pleased that Matthew Cooper's work has been recognised.

"Sadly, metal theft remains a problem, and I urge communities to report incidents and suspicions to the Police."

The Diocesan Advisory Committee for the care of churches (DAC) continues to work closely with parishes around the diocese to protect our national heritage.

If you would like more information on some of the methods you can use to protect your church, please contact us on 01522 50 40 47.