Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Far From Bloomsbury: A PAS Cover-up?

I received a tip off two days ago that an FLO might be willing to talk about a matter that deeply concerns my informant (names withheld for the moment). He alleges that the incident is being quietly hushed up to protect the reputation of metal detectorists.
 As best I can find out, earlier this year the [...] M[etal] D[etecting] C[lub] held a rally on land near [....]  which included fields of a SAM. Allegedly, the club members organising the rally 'didn't know' of the SAM and neither did the farmer (even though he gets stewardship payment for the monument).  A version of what happened being touted by an attendee ' The farmer wasn't present and left instructions directing the rally to permissible detecting land. There was a mistake in interpreting these instructions'.  Apparently [...the FLO] was asked to leave a subsequent club meeting after raising the issue (No doubt in a very touchie feelie PAS way).  PAS may actually be partly responsible in that the FLO declined an invite to attend  the rally (in which case you'd hope the SAM issue would've come to light). Of course there are many issues. The one that really irritates me is that Stewardship conditions are being ignored on a massive scale. Irrespective of what happened, had the organisers, or indeed the farmer as agreement holder, contacted NEngland as they should, then one would hope that the SAM issue would have come to light. I'm sorry I can't provide more detail but some are being tight lipped. I don't even know which SAM it was but it was described to me as 'having obvious earthworks'.  [....]  some direct questions may well get an interesting response.
What do you reckon folks? Would some direct questions sent to the FLO get any kind of a sensible response? My enquiry sent to the FLO contains the following:
[...] has contacted me, worried that an illegal metal detecting incident is allegedly being hushed up – including, he alleges, by the PAS. This concerns a metal detecting club in your area, I believe, the [....] MDC who allegedly held an illegal artefact hunting rally on land near [....] which included fields of a SAM.  Presumably the presence of such a site made this land attractive for artefact hunters. Is this true? What is the name of the site?
 If this is true, how is this possible? Even if paying guests would not check the legality of such an escapade before getting into their cars, the organizers would have had to. The landowner too – I am told that in the alleged case, he or she gets stewardship payment for the monument which apparently is an obvious earthwork site under pasture – so detecting there would be right against the Code of Practice anyway. If a rally took place on this land, did NEngland vet this? I presume the FLO would not attend such a rally, but if informed about it, would it not have been stopped? Have any of the finds made during such a rally been handed in to you for recording and if so, what action was taken? Did the PAS inform the landowner and organizers? And the police? What about the other illegally obtained artefacts, have they now been retrieved from rally attendees? If this happened, why is this not all over the news? What would the PAS hope to achieve by being quiet and not taking a firm stand against artefact hunters who break the law like this? Why is the PAS consistently failing to react to activities which go against the “best practice” the Scheme was set up to promote? 
Instead of acknowledging receipt, the FLO forwarded the enquiry to their boss, Mike Lewis in Bloomsbury. He replied to my letter on their behalf (!) that the PAS could not give any information because 'a police investigation was under way' and that they could not even inform anyone that something like that had taken place because of that, so as not to prejudice enquiries. But I did not ask about who they'd caught, merely about whether the event happened. My response:
You also mention "the other email" about an alleged incident on a SAM (deliberately sent to the addressee only, to give her a freedom of reply - in confidence if needed, but I see the Ancienne Regime's methods still apply there). I really do not understand why getting some simple information from your employees should be so difficult. We want artefact collectors and dealers to be transparent, but your own organization cannot manage it! I think that whether a rally was held on a specific piece of land or not is immediately determinable immediately after it has finished (footprints, infilled holes, information from participants, and GPS readings associated with the finds they produce for recording). No police investigation is needed to establish that fact with enough certainty for there to be the same week a press release informing the public than another episode of illegal metal detetecting has taken place, and that "police are investigating" ("anyone with any information is asked to contact...."). NOT to do so is indeed precisely the cover-up that I was told about. Can you show me that newspaper report? I believe the FLO knew about the incident (and was told she'd been thrown out of a MD club for raising the issue with members - that is not a police matter, so you can confirm whether or not that is true).
In a subsequent mail reply, Mr Lewis tries to implicate me:
But if you have a tip off from [...] about illegal activity why don't you contact the police? I am certainly happy to pass your name on to them if you are able to help? 
Punctuation Mr Lewis, decide if you are writing a statement or a question! My reply to that says:
I was tipped off that [FLO...] might have something to say about her experiences during a visit to a certain MD club (is THAT a police matter? Was she assauilted, is that it?) I do not know why you think the police have to talk to a guy in Warsaw trying to verify second-hand information when you tell me that the reason you cannot confirm what was alleged is because the POLICE ARE ALREADY ONTO IT. I suggest the police had better talk to [FLO....], and interview those detectorists whose names are on the club dig attendance list, and then raid their homes. But if you’ve got the police involved, it looks like the story is not without substance, which is why I ask again, why is there a cover up?
In previous correspondence with the head of the PAS, apart from his poor grasp of punctuation, I have noted a curious tendency not to be able to focus on the issue being discussed. This happens time and time again. I asked for some information about an incident that an informant alleges is being covered up by the PAS and all I get in the way of a response is a smoke screen of side issues. What Mr Lewis says is akin to saying that if somebody breaks into my house, or steals my car, or assaults my daughter on the bus, or smashes Jewish headstones in the cemetery, the newspapers cannot write about it until the police have finished the investigation and caught the perpetrators. Such a position is laughable. The public has a right to know. I had earlier sent Mr Lewis an example where a case of nighthawking was mentioned in the press just two days ago:
There is a fairly new story about illegal detecting in Corbridge before the police have caught anyone: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/nighthawk-raiders-using-metal-detectors-13688090 so I am not at all convinced that your excuse for not making a thing of it in the fight for best practice among finders is a valid one.
His reply?
Thank you for the link to nighthawking at Corbridge, which it sounds like the police and HE are on to, but I will forward on just in case...
I said he should do that if he thought it was useful to the police and suggested he could also send them the link to the same story published in the Daily Mail two days earlier. Pathetic.
Mr Lewis suggests for some reason that I am ignorant and allegedly "do not know how law enforcement works" and then goes off on a tack (remember the question asked was 'was a club dig held on a SAM or not? Did the FLO raise that question at a club meeting, and what happened?')
 I have heard a lot about illegal detecting abroad, believe me...
That is really what he replied. Well, 'I have heard a lot about child sex abuse by celebrities and politicians in Britain, believe me...'. I fail to see the relevance. What is this man's point? This is really just a stupid xenophobic argument (let's get Brexit over with and get these people with their obnoxious superiority complex out of the EU). He then bemoans the fact that archaeobloggers feel that 'it is fine for you to swipe at my efforts?' [I think that too was a statement, not a question]. What I think is that if somebody takes money to do a job as a public servant, and gets a nice WC1 office, he should accept along with it that there would be public scrutiny of and debate on how that job is done. Mr Lewis presumably would be happier functioning within a totalitarian state in which nobody should be allowed to have (and argue) the notion that an organization like the PAS should be doing things differently. He finished with a sweet Hello Kitty mantra:
I do believe there are some detectorists that have a genuine interest in the past.
There are many who are just interested in collecting, trophies, bragging rights etc.. That is not the same thing. But the issue is that this 'belief' seems to be what is behind the continued silence about this incident. I guess the PAS are afraid that if they say 'boo', all the geese will run away. By criticising a metal detecting club involved in irresponsible behaviour, they would be seen by their metal detecting partners as the 'enemy'. But my question is how metal detectorists (some of whom, as we can all see, are by no means the most cerebral of the planet's inhabitants) can learn what is and what is not responsible behavior if nobody tells them? And whose organization gobbles up over a million pounds of heritage money a year to tell the British public that? Not my blog, but precisely those evasive secretive guys in Bloomsbury and their scattered regional offices with their 'liaison' staff. That's who. why are they doing such a bad job of it?

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