Sunday, 25 March 2012

What do you do when you leave the PAS?

Something I spotted in the news made me realise that many of the PAS staff whose names were familiar from various matters on their (now defunct) forum and requests for information are no longer with the Scheme. The PAS seem to have quite a high turnover (and let's face it, it cannot be pleasant work working with such "partners"). Anyhow this is part of a text "Losing the jewels in our heritage crown" in the Telegraph (which seems otherwise to have an unhealthy fascination in the York urination problem) tells us what has become of Kent's former FLO:
And in Canterbury, another historic jewel, you find Andrew Richardson and Michele Johnson, first of a new breed we might call “heritage detectives”. They’re professional archaeologists working as accredited police support volunteers. They use their knowledge to help officers secure convictions, and prepare “impact statements” so courts realise just how much harm has been done. “As a nation, we were dismal at this stuff,” said Dr Richardson. “There was a sense that it wouldn’t be investigated and the law wouldn’t be enforced. Now, we’re becoming world leaders at it.”

When they go to, say, a prehistoric barrow that’s been trashed by vandals, “we now treat it as a crime scene,” says Dr Richardson. “We turn over the spoil heap for cigarette ends, anything with DNA, discarded wrappings, footprints.” At Thurnham Castle, near Maidstone, they followed a man digging a mysterious trench as he went back to his car. Armed with his registration number, they and the police raided his girlfriend’s house – uncovering a massive hoard of stolen artefacts from dozens of sites around England. “The criminals network, so we need to network too,” Richardson says.

The analogy sometimes made is with bird-egg collecting. When the RSPB mounted a few high-profile prosecutions, an entire subculture suddenly took flight, and birds’ nests became a whole lot safer. High-profile prosecutions of heritage thieves, too, are now imminent, and sentences have already got tougher. The Thurnham Castle man only got a conditional discharge – but more recently, a youth who spray-painted Cliffords Tower in York collected four months in jail. [...] Not before time, thinks Andrew Richardson. “The importance of this is that the harm is irreversible,” he says. “When an item of our heritage goes, you can’t make a new one.”
Britain "becoming world leaders at [fighting heritage crime]”? That's a laugh and a half. With a legislative system unlike that anywhere else in the civilized world allowing (and a government "partnership" Scheme set up to do nothing to stop) 10000 people plundering sites for collectables?

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