Saturday, 9 May 2015

Hertfordshire Police and Nighthawking - Doh

"this counts as theft under British Law".
When a felon's not engaged in his
employment Or maturing his
felonious little plan His capacity
for innocent enjoyment....
Hertfordshire constabulary have produced a text - I suppose meant to be helpful - on "The Law about Nighthawking". The general effect of this text is comedic and almost brings to mind the Pirates of Penzance. Hertfordshire police define "Illegal metal detecting" as
"the search and removal of antiquities from the ground using metal detectors without the permission of the landowners or on prohibited land such as Scheduled Monuments. It is a form of theft and can be prosecuted under the Theft Act".
Wait a second, when you've hoiked the find and have it in your pocket it is no longer "illegal"? And when you flog it on eBay its not illegal, or if somebody buys an object from you knowing it's illicit origins, having it is not illegal? Why centre the definition of illegal acts involving the archaeological heritage on metal detecting and deft spadework? The definition of a tainted artefact is given in the 2003 'Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act' (see notes here too). This has been part of UK legislation for twelve years (and has been used at least once to prosecute an artefact finder), so the police should be aware of it and informing the public about it in their education drive. Surely the police should touch on how to avoid the pitfalls in "dealing with cultural objects" involved in the collecting and trade of archaeological objects, and not just "metal detecting". Can they do that? Anyway they've been told by someone that they should refer finders to the Treasure Act Code of Practice and:
A code of practice for responsible metal detecting is available by clicking Web Link here.
Bravo, but then they spoil it all by the other trite claptrap they've also been told to write
Impact on metal detecting in the United Kingdom Nighthawkers are considered to be separate from law-abiding metal detectorists, as they do not follow the codes of practice laid out by such hobbyist groups as the Federation of Independent Detectorists. However, it has been claimed that nighthawkers use such groups as a method of obtaining information about archaeological sites. Despite the difference between the two groups, nighthawking has had a detrimental effect on the reputation of legitimate metal detectors.

What idiocy is it to mention one Code of Practice, but then use another several lines below as the standard by which good practice is measured? Taranta-ra-ra-ra.... The word in any case is "nighthawk", not "nighthawker", hawkers sell things and we are talking about hoikers. (Note, the FID is under new management).

If, Hertfordshire Constabulary, "in Britain, ownership of finds on private lands, unless declared treasure, rests with the land owners", what can citizens insist on having from the seller in order to avoid handling stolen goods or potentially handling stolen goods when they "deal with cultural objects"? What precautions should seller and buyer take to avoid involvement (or accusation of involvement) in heritage crime?

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