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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Stolen mobiles 'will be blocked'
A mobile phone
It is hoped that the pledge will put people off buying stolen phones
Around 80% of mobile phones will be blocked on all five UK networks within 48 hours of being reported stolen in future, industry leaders have pledged.

That pledge is part of a charter to reduce phone crime launched by the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum.

It will take effect by the year's end but will not apply to foreign networks.

Police have warned that, while it is now more difficult than in the past, blocked phones can still be illegally re-activated in the UK.

Networks 'accountable'

Jack Wraith, who chairs the MICAF, said networks had been made "accountable".

He acknowledged blocking was already commonplace when a phone was stolen but told BBC News: "Currently there is no accountability on networks where blocking phones is concerned.

"The networks are now answerable and they will get named and shamed by us if they fail to stick to the charter.

"I have every faith that they will do their best to meet the criteria laid down in the charter."

Mr Wraith stressed the move was intended to dissuade those who would consider buying a stolen phone.

He said the majority of modern mobile phones could not be re-activated and were therefore useless once blocked.

'Harder to reprogramme'

But Det Insp Kenny McDonald, of the Met Police's Mobile Phone Crime Unit, said it was still possible to find out on the internet how to re-activate phones or to pay someone illegally to do it.

"A lot of work has been done by manufacturers to make it a lot harder to re-programme phones," he told the BBC News website.

But he said it was difficult to say whether there would ever be a point where it would be impossible to illegally re-programme a mobile phone.

Those convicted under the Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act 2002 can face up to five years in prison.

Home Secretary John Reid welcomed the MICAF move and pledged 1.35m in funding for a specialist national phone crime unit.

Ministerial pledge

He said: "I welcome this commitment by the mobile phone industry leaders to make mobile phones less attractive to thieves and demonstrate their clear commitment to their customers' safety."

Mr Reid went on: "I believe the public should be free to carry valuable items, such as mobile phones and MP3 players, on the streets without fear of becoming a target for robbers.

"Today there are 21,000 fewer robberies on the streets than five years ago. We are determined to drive robbery levels down even further."

But a rise in young people carrying mobile phones and MP3 players was blamed for street robberies and muggings jumping by 8% last year, according to police figures.

The five UK networks involved in the charter are Vodafone, O2, T Mobile, Orange, and 3.

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