On September 22nd 2014, I wrote to Lauren Proctor about the hoiking of a hoard ('FLO Speechless' PACHI Thursday, 2 October 2014). Now due to the FOI review (Appendix 2 p. 10), we know the background to the response. When she got my mail, she forwarded it to PAS Head office (Mike Lewis)
I had this email waiting for me this morning. Having heard from other FLOs I was just wondering whether if it's worth sending a polite, non-committal response or avoiding contact altogether."Avoiding contact" makes the enquirer sound like an infectious disease. Note the tentative phrasing. She sees just two possibilities, ignoring the issue, or a non-committal response from the seventeen million pound publicly funded Scheme to a member of the public asking what the PAS public response to an egregious and very public example of bad practice/. She does not see the correct response is a reply which commits the PAS (who she works for on the public's behalf) to doing everything possible to stop this sort of thing happening. Oh no, that is not the way they want us to see is the PAS way of doing things. The approach they are here promoting by their non-committal is that when a problem arises, they'll simply shrug their shoulders and ignore it.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme goes out of its way to present their activities in a certain manner. Their tabulations of figures are difficult to use to investigate other questions than the ones they want to discuss. In other words, the discussion of current UK policies on the portable heritage is dominated by the propaganda of success of the PAS and this in turn is used by artefact hunters and collectors in their fight to maintain the damaging status quo. The PAS does virtually nothing to counteract it (even if their tunnel vision approach, focussed on their own targets, allows them to be aware it is happening). Sadly they are ever-dismissive of attempts by others (David Gill, Nigel Swift, myself and others) to attempt to address these issues by showing another side to the issues as presented by the PAS news-machine. Mike Lewis' response to Ms Proctor is therefore symptomatic. When asked whether a non-committal reply to a public enquiry was in order, the Scheme's deputy head tells her curtly:
My advice is to ignore. Whatever you say will be twisted.Or perhaps used to demonstrate that non-committal replies are not what is needed here. Of course there is nothing to stop the PAS putting up a clearly-worded public statement about their reaction to the hoard hoik which nobody can or misconstrue. Can they bring themselves to do that? Can they commit themselves to a firm policy of not only in a somewhat passive manner promoting best practice but actively condemning bad practice? There is no way that can be "twisted". So why was that not the approach adopted here in September 2014?
Why is this not what the seventeen-million pound PAS do every time another video or forum thread emerges showing this sort of thing? It is a puzzle. Until it is resolved I reserve the right to criticise the PAS for their policies of selectively presenting information which gives an incomplete picture of the whole panorama of difficult issues resulting from current policies on artefact hunting in England and (for the moment), Wales.