Wednesday 11 July 2012

Ireland, Detecting Device Licence, What Part of "No" do You Not Understand?

About this time last year ( Thu Jul 07, 2011) one Ciaran ("ibecake"), a metal detectorist from East Cork, joined a metal detecting forum and was talking about his difficulties getting a licence to use his machine. Members were supportive. On May 18th "Ibecake" was reporting that he had been told by his MP (to whom he'd written about his problems with Irish heritage law) that he can go ahead and detect without a licence, and that he (the MP) would support a change in the law.
So Basically I have took it that its now ok in Ireland to Use a metal detector to Coin Shoot etc on any Lands with the owners permission as long as you are not near any national monuments. And As all this info is easily available for download here in ireland i can see my summer being very productive i am going to talk to the local Guard [police] just in case but i expect it should be ok as long as i keep to the above criteria.
Unfortunately whether he did or not and whether his artefact hunting was very "productive" is unrecorded in the forum's archives, but he'd posted the letter he'd actually received earlier in reply to his attempt to obtain a detection device licence for metal detecting along the foreshore in Rostellan and Aghada.
The National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004 deal with the protection of the archaeological heritage (portable and built heritage) in Ireland with the 1987 Amendment Act specifically dealing with the use of metal detecting devices. Other than under license, it is illegal to use a metal detecting device to search for archaeological objects in Ireland. The term ‘archaeological object’ is a legal one that has a wide meaning and may include most lost or concealed cultural objects, (including common objects such as coins) and objects of relatively modern date (including 20th century material). It is public policy not to issue metal detecting search licenses other than in the context of licensed archaeological excavations or investigations being undertaken under the direction of a professional archaeologist.
 It was pointed out that he was proposing to metal detect on or near to the site of several recorded archaeological monuments, which are protected under Section 12 of the 1994 National Monuments (Amendment) Act, and in areas which "may contain items of historic significance, and thus these would come under the term ‘archaeological object’ within the meaning of the National Monuments Acts".
 Unlicensed detectorists who engage in general searches for objects run the risk of prosecution and the law provides for heavy fines and/or imprisonment of offenders. This is not merely a theoretical proposition as a number of successful prosecutions have been taken against individuals. In 1994 the maximum penalties for offenses were increased to a fine of £50,000 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both. [...] All of the legislation can be accessed online and include the following: The National Monuments Act, 1930, The National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1954. The National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987. The National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994. The National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 2004.
The letter's writer urges Mr Ciaran not to go artefact hunting in the area he had indicated:
 based on our knowledge of the law and of our experience of the great damage done to the archaeological heritage in the past by the activities of metal detectorists, I must urge you not to pursue your stated intentions of metal detecting It would be our view that, to do so, may only attract people into an area of activity where they will be exposed to the possibility of criminal prosecution and it may also place you at risk of prosecution. Should you have any further queries, or should you wish for advice on how to become involved in archaeological research without exposure to the risk of prosecution, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Now I wonder just which part of "it is illegal to use a metal detecting device to search for archaeological objects in Ireland" the detectorist who announced he was looking forward to a "productive [metal detecting] summer" failed to understand. Neither is it stated whether he availed himself of the offer to seek advice on "how to become involved in archaeological research without exposure to the risk of prosecution".

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