Monday, 27 April 2009

'Looter fine is a letdown'

Icklingham landowner John Browning said the legal system had 'let down' the British public and after a metal detector using looter who stole ancient artefacts from a site designated as an ancient monument site in his fields left court with only a £60 fine (Kirsty Marais 'Looter fine is a letdown', Bury Free Press 24 April 2009).

Browning sat in Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court on Tuesday to see Andrew Chamberlain plead guilty to the offence, but afterwards said "The courts have let down English Heritage very badly […] If the hearing had been half an hour later I would have exceeded my time in the car park and would have been fined more than a man who travelled 70 miles for the purpose to steal."

Fining Chamberlain £60 and ordering him to pay £60 costs and a £15 victim surcharge, District Judge Andrew Campbell said: "This is an unusual case and one can look at it very seriously. Firstly, this is theft from the Crown, there is also the case of disturbing the site and taking things that have prominence found in that particular context."
The problem is that Judge Campbell is wrong thinking this is an “unusual” case. It is happening all the time.

Britain has just spent a lot of money producing a strategic report on illegal artefact hunting – and one of the principal conclusions was that the judiciary and law enforcement authorities are at a total loss when faced with this kind of crime. A “fine” that is less than a parking ticket is absolutely no deterrent. If Mr Chamberlain admitted going to Mr Browning’s field equipped to steal, why was his metal detector not confiscated? If a burglar was apprehended having broken into Judge Andrew Campbell’s house at four thirty in the morning, would he get off with a sixty quid fine and be allowed to keep all the lock-picking tools found on him?

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