Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: "They Clearly had Some Sort of Relationship with the Local Finds Liaison Officer"

The trial of two "metal-detecting enthusiasts" has begun in Northampton Crown Court. They were reportedly "caught red-handed plundering an ancient Roman and Iron Age archeological site in Northamptonshire" - a scheduled site at Chester Farm, near Irchester.  
The court heard on July 26 last year, they were spotted detecting on the site, but when approached they walked on to neighbouring farmland where they were tracked by a police dog. They had maps, a compass, four metal detectors, shovels and spades. He added: “Mr West has been selling coins on the internet but the prosecution cannot say they are from Chester Farm.”[...] Peter Cox, aged 69, of Thirlmere Close, Kettering and Darren West, aged 51, of Duke Street, Kettering, pleaded guilty to five joint charges. They admitted damaging an ancient monument between January and July 2011, thefts of artefacts from Whitworth Holdings, which owns adjacent land, as well stealing as from a neighbouring farm. They also admitted thefts of artefacts from Northamptonshire County Council, which is responsible for Chester Farm, and going equipped for theft. Cox also admitted possessing a pepper spray canister. [...] Judge Richard Bray said at the time: “You cannot go round stealing important items of cultural heritage.”
Well, you can if you stick within the law and have friends in the right places : 
Daniel Chadwick, for West, said at a hearing earlier this month: The Crown’s case is these men are not out-and-out treasure robbers. They clearly had some sort of relationship with the local finds officer at the county council and their local archeological society.”
and what kind of "relationship" would that be? That would presumably be with Julie Cassidy of Northamptonshire County Council's Archive and Heritage Service. What safeguards have the PAS established to avoid data about finds from illegal artefact hunting being included (perhaps with false findspots) on their database? I suppose it would be too much to expect, in the interests of public accountability and transparency, some kind of statement from the PAS (or Northamptonshire County Council) explaining that remark and its significance, a matter of public record. Don't hold your breath.

Rob Middleton, 'Metal detectors plunder heritage site', Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 4 December 2012.

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