By Claire West

A new deal to stop an estimated 100,000 stolen mobile phones, worth around £4 million, being sold to recycling companies was announced today by Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire.

The agreement aims to close a loophole which sees thousands of phones - worth an average of £40 each — sold to recyclers each year.

Currently 90 per cent of handsets reported stolen in the UK are blocked across all networks within 48 hours of reporting, making them useless in the UK to criminals trying to sell them on. However, blocked phones can still be used abroad and as the recycling industry exports many of the handsets it buys this has created a new market for stolen phones.

Companies who sign up to the new code of practice will work closely with police and check the details of every phone they are offered against the National Mobile Phone Register, a database of all phones reported stolen. If the handset has been reported as stolen the company will refuse to buy the phone and details of the phone and the person trying to sell it to them will be passed to police to investigate.

Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire said:

"Tackling crime effectively is not just a job for government alone, action at all levels of society is needed to make a real difference. This new agreement is a perfect example of what this approach can achieve.

"By joining forces with the police, the mobile phone industry is closing a multi-million pound loophole that has been exploited by criminals and the industry should be congratulated. Alongside the impressive work on blocking stolen phones, this code will make mobile phone theft an even less profitable crime."

Jack Wraith, chairman of the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum, said:

"The industry welcomes this very important initiative on the part of the recyclers. It not only closes off an avenue used by criminals to gain from theft of mobile phones, it also demonstrates those recyclers who have signed up to the scheme are serious in their efforts to support the continuing battle against mobile phone theft."

Commander Simon Pountain, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said:

"As a result of the hard work and commitment of the recycling and mobile phone industry, combined with the work of the Home Office and the police, there is now the possibility of detecting up to a further 100,000 offences countrywide.

"To date numerous arrests have taken place and stolen goods recovered. Significant offences such as robberies and burglaries have been solved through utilising this new system which has also led to arrests for murder. This is a great example of partnership working at its best for the benefit of the wider community."

Those companies that sign up will be endorsed by the industry so consumers can have confidence in the recycler they are dealing with. So far 20 mobile phone recyclers, representing 90 per cent of the industry, have committed to the agreement.

The code of practice, which has been developed by the Telecommunications Fraud Forum (TUFF), government and police, will be administered by TUFF who will monitor it to ensure it is being adhered to. Sanctions will be taken against companies that do not comply with it.