Wednesday, 5 September 2012

More Criminals Caught with Metal Detectors

This one made me angry as it involves a pretty amazing site with which I (and - nota bene - an amateur archaeologist I knew), have been involved. Two metal detector users have admitted stealing coins and other artefacts from a protected Roman site in Baylham (Baylham Rare Breeds Farm), near Needham Market. Scott Mitchell and Allan Oakley were arrested in March:
Oakley, 48, of Halton Road, Grays, and Mitchell, 44, of Phoenix Place, Dartford, admitted theft and using a metal detector in a protected place without consent, when they appeared before Bury St Edmunds magistrates. The pair were at Baylham between 1.30am and 2.20am on March 29. Police[...] saw an area of ground had been disturbed. They also noticed an unattended vehicle in a layby just before the Coddenham exit of the A14. Oakley and Mitchell were subsequently arrested and items were found in the pockets of their camouflage jackets. Roman coins, a buckle fitting, terracotta lamps, a lead button and copper and metal work were discovered during the inquiry. In addition to the forfeiture of their metal detecting equipment, Oakley and Mitchell were given conditional discharges for 24 months, and ordered to pay £85 prosecution costs.
The police were watching the site because of an earlier incident involving metal detectorists
On February 18 three men were arrested following an alleged fight at the same location. Emergency services were called at around 3.15am after a man sustained head injuries. It was believed that a number of men had been scouring the Roman site surrounding the farm looking for unearthed treasure and had been involved in a confrontation. A 38-year-old man, from the Grays area of Essex, was believed to have been struck with a “metal pole” and was taken to West Suffolk Hospital for treatment. As a result of the incident 41-year-old from Grays, and 43-year-old man from Grays, were subsequently cautioned by police for theft of coins.
Nice lot, these metal detector users. Metal poles are exactly the kind of tool you'd expect them to take into the fields. I am at a loss to explain why two men were cautioned for "theft of coins" while another two get their stuff confiscated and a conditional discharge. British justice works in mysterious ways. Richard Storer, the owner of Baylham Rare Breeds Farm said it was regularly plagued by unauthorised people with metal detectors in search of lucrative artefacts. The site is not mentioned in the Oxford Archaeology Nighthawking report, like many others. It seems that as the police toughen up their approach, we will find that illegal artefact hunting with metal detectors is by no means as rare as claimed.

Let's just take a look on a map where these guys were coming from... I've done this trip myself quite a few times.

Onto the M25, up the A12 (which is itself on a Roman road most of the way) and straight to the site. That's about 100 km one-way. It is a shame the court did not confiscate the cars which were essential to allow the men from Grays and the guy from Dartford to commit this crime, they'd find it harder to go a'thieving lugging their equipment on the bus.

Colin Adwent, [Crime correspondent] 'Baylham: ‘Nighthawkers’ admit theft of Roman artefacts', East Anglian Daily Times, Wednesday, September 5, 2012.
9:00 AM

Base map from here

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