A WOULD-BE thief who suffered a 66,000 volt electric shock while attempting to steal metal from an electricity substation has escaped a spell in jail.
Matthew Atkinson (21), who was in hospital for nine weeks after suffering severe burns from the substation on Green Lane, Thurcroft, last April, was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years.
The facility’s owners condemed Atkinson’s actions as “unforgivable,” while police said that his injuries showed the dangers of approaching substations.
Atkinson, of Queen Mary Street, Maltby, suffered burns to 28 per cent of his body and had to undergo several skin graft operations, Sheffield Crown Court heard on Friday.
Police and paramedics arrived at the scene after being called by Atkinson’s 23-year-old sister Kimberley, who was also involved in the raid with 17-year-old younger brother Ashley.
When officers arrived at the Thurcroft substation on the evening of April 4, they found the entry gate had been forced open and metal piping had been removed.
It was estimated the total cost of repairs to the station as a result of the raid were around £10,000.
A police spokeswoman said after the hearing: “People who enter these substations illegally are not only putting themselves at risk, but may cause potential dangers for staff who work on the site.
“Sites such as this one, have numerous signs warning people that entry will pose a risk of injury with potentially fatal consequences.
“Despite these warnings, some people still wrongly believe they can enter a compound and safely strip the copper and other metals that form part of the system’s isolators.
“They operate at high voltage and can deliver an electric shock, even if care is taken not to touch the live wires.”
On top of his suspended jail sentence, Recorder Ray Singue sentenced Atkinson a 12-month supervision order with a curfew for four months.
Speaking after the incident, Peter McCormick, director of health and safety at CE Electric UK, which owns the site, said: “The perpetrator received an excruciating electric shock and was left with horrific burns. He is extremely lucky to be alive.
“Substations are potentially fatal and in the past our staff have discovered charred bodies in substations after similar incidents.
“Each time one of our substations is broken into, up to 30,000 properties can be left without electricity.
“This isn’t just a massive inconvenience for everyone left scrabbling around in the dark, but for some people, like those who rely on medical equipment, a power cut can have serious consequences.
“What’s more, those responsible invariably leave these extremely dangerous sites wide open and insecure for passing children to wander into.
“It's bad enough that this individual has put his own life on the line, but the total lack of concern for the safety of others is unforgivable.”
Kimberley Atkinson was given a 12-month community order and ordered to do 120 hours of community work.
Ashley received a nine-month youth rehabilitation order and nine months’ supervision by the probation service.
The police spokeswoman added: “The warning signs are there for a reason and as this recent incident shows, the dangers are very real.
“If anyone sees any suspicious activity at these sites, the advice is to stay clear of the facilities and report the incident straight away.”