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A group, found guilty of taking part in scam to sell tons of stolen railway failed to persuade judges of unfair conviction

Two men and a woman found guilty of taking part in a massive scam to sell on illegally tons of stolen railway line as scrap have failed to persuade top judges that they were unfairly convicted.

Balfour Beatty worker Paul Roberts, 36, took part in the plot to steal the railway track from a secure compound at Dover Western Docks.

Scrapyard owners Paul and Glenda Chapman, aged 69 and 66, were found to have turned a blind eye while 14 truckloads of stolen track passed through their premises between October 2009 and July 2010.

Dover Western Docks
Dover Western Docks

The Chapmans, of Cranbrook Road, Tenterden, were convicted of converting criminal property at Blackfriars Crown Court, while Roberts, of Miller Close, Ashford, Kent, was found guilty of conspiracy to steal.

All three were given 12-month suspended jail terms in May last year.

The Chapmans were fined almost £50,000 each and ordered to pay £30,000 compensation to Network Rail.

Roberts was given 120 hours unpaid work.

Lady Justice Macur, Mr Justice Phillips and Judge Neil Ford QC, sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, heard all three challenge the jury’s verdicts.

The court heard that a co-worker and close friend of Roberts had been the “organiser” of the conspiracy, which involved secure compounds across Kent and Sussex, but mainly focused on the depot at Dover.

Roberts’ case was that he had no involvement with the scam, while the Chapmans claimed they had been “duped” and had thought they were receiving lorry-loads of legitimate scrap, and selling it on legally.

Roberts’ lawyers argued that the original trial judge had misdirected the jury on crucial aspects of the case.

Dismissing his appeal, however, Lady Justice Macur said: “The jury was sure not only of his involvement in the theft but his wider involvement.

"This conviction cannot be regarded as unsafe.”

"This conviction cannot be regarded as unsafe.”- Lady Justice Macur

The Chapmans’ lawyers pointed out that they had been cleared of involvement in the conspiracy to steal and that the couple had run the scrapyard business for decades in an entirely legitimate manner.

It had, they argued, been “disproportionate and unfair” of prosecutors to add the converting criminal property count to the indictment.

However, rejecting the couple’s complaints, Lady Justice Macur said: “The jury was not at a disadvantage and neither were these defendants.”

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