Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Prominent metal detectorist says: “Illegal metal detecting is now virtually non-existent.”

A prominent "metal detectorist" has reacted furiously to claims in a report written for English Heritage that illegal “nighthawks” are pillaging the region’s hidden history, it says in the Northern Echo today. Norman Smith, from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, is the organizer of frequent and sometimes huge commercial artefact hunting rallies, mostly in the north of England but also at other places around the country. Smith yesterday accused English Heritage of being misleading and said: “Illegal metal detecting is now virtually non-existent.” Smith said he helped with the Nighthawking survey, carried out for English Heritage by Oxford Archaeology, and that it found the problem to be minimal. “English Heritage are notorious for anti-detecting feelings and have unsuccessfully campaigned for years to have metal detecting banned", he said.

That's funny. We all remember the Water Newton rally which Mr Smith organized, and some of us heard the stories (on the Rally UK forum I think it was) in which participants recount sitting in their tents the first night and watching the torches of the nighthawks in the adjacent fields moving about. We recall in particular Mr Smith's remarks after the Stixwould rally reported here. In Mr Smith's parting comment ("which I make in full knowledge that archaeologists visit this site"), he mentions that during the Oxford Archaeology project on nighthawking, he visited London twice at his own expense "to defend this wonderful hobby of ours" and that he did the same thing during the discussions of the Code of Practice for Rallies:
"but when I shouted from the rooftops that dishonest metal detecting was almost non-existent I showed the greatest of naiivity, and it is obvious that, although such illegal activities have diminished on scheduled sites the problem of nighthawking is still a major challenge, and the hard work of thousands of honest, genuine blokes who detect regularly is being undermined by dishonest, immoral thieving b******s, who live off the backs of the majority who are the “good guys”. The problem is we all know who they are and do nowt about it.
So the Nighthawking survey "found the problem was minimal" or was told that the problem was minimal? There is a difference Mr Smith. This well illustrates the sort of thing that the Survey was up against. Mr Smith admits freely to his fellows that there is a serious problem, but when an official attempt is made to gather facts, suddenly the "problem is minimal". We note he said he went to meet the Nighthawking survey people "to defend this wonderful hobby of ours" by trying to persuade the investigators that "dishonest metal detecting was almost non-existent". It is notable that after over a decade of liaison and strengthening the links between "detectorists" and archaeologists, that people like Mr Smith and his fellows refuse to share any information they have (and I am sure they have a lot) on illegal activity with a group of people trying to find out how we can best preserve the archaeological resource from further destruction due to the activities of these people.

1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

ooo look, Mr Jorg Lueke from the USA has made a comment to the Northern Echo:
jlueke, Oakdale says...
1:44pm Tue 17 Feb 09
The survey detailed 200 illegal raids over 14 years, a little more than one per month if averaged. How much legal detecting occurs in the same time span? Was the rate f nighthawking even throughout the 14 year period? These are important facts missing form the existing media reports.

Mt Luecke is siding with Norman Smith!! How much legal car driving took place last year as opposed to car thefts? Well, that's OK then, we can stop chasing car thieves cant we? And burglars and crooked bankers. Jorg, a crime is a crime, why do you think it in ANY WAY strange that the British should try to stop crimes being committed against their own heritage in their own country?

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