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Anyone caught re-programming a mobile phone could be jailed for up to five years and face unlimited fines, according to a new Government Bill unveiled today.

The proposed legislation is being introduced in a bid to tackle mobile phone theft making the devices less attractive to would-be thieves.

If passed the Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Bill will make the changing of the unique identifying IMEI number a criminal offence.

It would also be illegal to own or supply the necessary equipment with the intent to use it for re-programming mobile phones.

Said Home Office Minister John Denham: "Mobile phone thefts have been a key factor in rising street crime - stolen mobiles are now involved in 50% of all robberies in London.

"The Bill being published today builds on the concerted action being taken across Government to tackle street crime.

"There is no legitimate reason to re-programme a mobile phone. Those doing so run the risk of heavy penalties, penalties they deserve because they are fuelling violent street crime."

In January a senior judge ruled that mobile phone thieves could face up to five years in jail adding that those who targeted mobiles would be "punished severely" and could expect custodial sentences for their crimes.

A Government report estimates that 700,000 mobile phones get nicked each year in the UK. ®

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