Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Operation Totem: English heritage related crime

I have discussed the shortcomings of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology. One of the concerns was under-reporting of finds by metal-detectorists.

I note that Operation Totem has yielded a "catch" in Lincolnshire ("Lenient sentence given to metal detecting thief", Horncastle News August 29, 2012).
A metal dectector enthusiast has been convicted of theft in so-called ‘nighthawking’ trips in the Horncastle area. [The individual from Yorkshire] faced nine allegations of theft between January 1 and July 8 2011, one allegation of going equipped for theft on June 5 and two allegations of possession of criminal property at his home on July 8. 
He denied all the offences but was convicted of eight offences of theft and of going equipped for theft by District Judge John Stobart at Skegness Magistrates Court last week.
More detail is given:
After a police raid at his home in July 2011, police found a large quantity of objects  - brooches, coins, pins and seals - two of which were found to have precious metal content in excess of 10 per cent which should have been declared as treasure to the Coroner. 
It also transpired that between July 2010 and May 2011, [the main] advertised 56 items on E-Bay and had sold approximately 30 of them. He had also entered the items referred to in the charges on to the UK Detectors database for recording finds. He stated they had all been found in May 2011 by him in Lincolnshire.
I notice that the other report from Horncastle ("Police send clear message sent to illegal nighthawkers", August 29, 2012) claims that the police worked in partnership with English Heritage "who were able to provide the support and advice on aspects of heritage-related crime". Sergeant Booth who led the investigation is quoted at length:
“Operation Totem was introduced to deal with concerns raised by members of the farming community who were suffering from persons illegally using metal detectors on their property. 
“This was resulting in significant damage to crops and the loss of unique historic artefacts.  
“A great deal of work was carried out by the officers involved in the operation to bring offenders to justice and to send out a clear message that illegal metal detecting and heritage crime will be taken seriously. 
“Many people seem to hold the opinion that metal detecting is a harmless hobby and feel that they have a right to roam and use their equipment at will, where they like, without permission or any likelihood of facing the consequences of their illegal actions. 
“While there are many responsible people who legitimately enjoy metal detecting with the permission of land owners, while using the proper channels to register and dispose of items that they may find, there are a small minority who persist in operating outside the law.”
I note that it is English Heritage taking a lead against English "heritage-related crime".


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