Wednesday 17 April 2013

Renewed Focus on UK Metal Detecting: NCMD members to Refuse to report Finds to PAS in May?

On a metal detecting forum near you is a thread which indicates some very serious challenges to the PAS and its institutional hosts of its regional branches which are emerging from the ever-militant and antagonistic National Council of Metal Detecting (NCMD). This thread concerns what the authors call the issue of "FLO Insurance". The issue is that very few finders being their objects in for recording while-they-wait, but FLOs pick them up at club meetings, take them back to their office, and then delver them back to the finder at the club when they have finished. In the meantime they (hopefully) have a backlog of finds in the office to work through when not doing other kinds of outreach.

Now metal detectorists are fretting about any possible (financial loss) they will suffer if the finds go missing while in the care of the FLO. Will they get compensation? We've already had at least one court case where a finder alleged they'd left an object to be recorded, and the museum "lost" it (the court decided that there was no evidence that the object in fact even existed) This question was raised by "Holedigger Pete" [Mon Mar 11, 2013 10:43 pm] who complained that he was having problems getting a firm reply from the FLO about this. He says this "needs to be sorted". He cites a case of a member of his club who lent coins to the BM through the FLO for "recording" (was this a Treasure case?) and "one or two" of them reportedly arrived in London damaged ("The value of the coins dropped because of the damage").  Member "liamnolan" [Wed Mar 13, 2013 10:48 pm] suggests that the FLO could be held by a metal detectorist personally liable to compensate the owner "for any damage or loss" which could be documented ("If you loan someone an item on the understanding that they will take care of it, then that will be binding in court").  Member "findyaown"  [Fri Mar 15, 2013 4:12 am] suggests rather unhelpfully:
my opinion is, if they cannot take full responsibility for the find that they want us to declare ,then how are we supposed to let a find out of our sight, knowing it may go missing or get damaged in the process . it is the arcies that brought this about ,so why dont they foot the bill for insurance ? i for one will not be forking out. the first time any find of mine gets damaged or goes missing while in the hands of the flo , will be the last .
Then on March 19th "Holedigger Pete" reports [Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:32 pm] that as a result of his raising the matter the NCMD have said
"if no FLO comes up with insurance by the end of April they will be asking members not to hand over finds till the matter is sorted [out]". 
Note that these guys are impatiently expecting a definitive answer to the question concerning measures applicable in a highly diffuse nationwide organization in just eight days. Anyway, now, as "Anorak" points out [Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:18 pm], they have their excuse:
They are always reminding us how we should always act responsibly as Detectorists but they are clearly not doing this themselves Our club was recording huge amounts of finds with the FLO every month but it has now stopped. Our club has always been in support of PAS in the past but can no longer recommend recording with PAS,at least until this is sorted out.[...] Our club is agreeing with the topic put here by Holedigger pete and what looks to be the obvious outcome. No Insurance,No Recording. Their loss.As Holedigger pete has already said. NCMD are giving them till the end of April.
One wonders about the actual commitment to responsibility the phrase "their loss" represents. To whom do "responsible" detectorists consider their responsibilities lie and why? To my mind the phrase represents responsibility to the common archaeological heritage from which individuals are appropriating things for their own personal use (personal entertainment and profit). It seems that all those contributing to this thread consider it means in fact something else.

In fact, despite the anecdotal evidence offered to support this latest reporting strike (the sixteenth in recent years it seems), documented cases of actual examples of objects going missing or damaged while in the hands of the FLO, PAS or collaborating museums is relatively low - especially considering the number they handle each year. I am sure many detectorists mislay items within their own collections (which it seems to me from what I can ascertain about those that reach museums after someone's death tend not to be very thoroughly documented) with a greater frequency.

I'd also like to ask what type of insurance artefact hunters can demonstrate for any valuable treasure items they bring home and may keep there in the 14 days they have to report them. I cannot see many normal domestic policies covering an "Anglo-Saxon gold hoard I dug up last Tuesday, but when missing when I popped out to the corner shop to buy batteries for my camera to photograph it" over a certain value unless the object has been separately itemised as part of the contents of the house beforehand. Otherwise if it was as easy as that, we'd all be trying it wouldn't we? The point is if a treasure item is lost or stolen while in the detectorist's hands or home, it is not he who loses it, but the public - all of us.

Towards the end of the thread is an interesting post by a "mrstiffler" [Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:13 am] who reminds the more indignantly militant members that it is not a common problem, and that most FLOs are very professional and trustworthy and care  responsibly for loaned finds.
at what point can the BM become liable to insure[?] remember the PAS cannot give a valuation, therefore, your item will only become insured, if, it comes under the treasure act,and if, its only going to go to a valuation committee,and that will only happen, if, the BM decide they want to keep it. Now the end result of this, as I see it, if you want your Item to be covered by insurance, then its down to you to have it valued, then insured, then recorded, if you so wish to do so. As recording is voluntary for items not subject to the treasure act,I really cannot see the BM paying out on insurance for items that dont belong to them. Myself, I will continue to record with the PAS on low valued items without insurance, anything I consider to be of higher value, subject, or not subject to the treasure act, I will have a private valuation, and then insure it prior to recording. 
Liamnolan endorses this viewpoint and makes some eminently sensible points [Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:19 am]:
Lets be positive about all this - Pete has uncovered a problem that affects us all, no sense in rabbiting on about good and bad FLO's, we now know we have to get ourselves sorted out and hopefully someone will come across a good insurance policy that we can all use.[...]
Food for thought and I for one will be reviewing all my finds and trying to get them insured for their real value and hopefully with cover that includes transit to and from museums.
At which point the question emerges whether metal detectorists in fact generally have such insurance cover, and if they do, how those individual non-treasure finds are valued. Is the information about the value of these items kept in a personal collection in a metal detectorists' home ever passed back to the landowner who so cheefully signed away their rights to what after all is by English law ultimately their property?

So is the NCMD going ahead with its call to its members to withold their finds until somebody else sorts out the problem?  Or are they going to think a little before shouting their mouths off and consider advising members how to proceed to protect their (financial) interests in finds - like ascertain and then advise precisely what kind of documentation a detectorist should be in possession of before he makes any such claim?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Takes you back a bit Paul. Most of the previous 15 threats were made (repeatedly)on the PAS forum but can no longer be seen because it's been northkoread.

I remember making the point in response to each one, ad nauseam, that the strike wasn't against us, PAS, CBA, DEFRA, the Government or whoever else was seen as the enemy that week, it was always against the public. And number 16 is too.

It was the shocking realisation that detectorists saw their own "rights" as superior to those of the public that first got me into this matter and it's clear nothing has changed. Few hobbies, few groups, few people take that attitude but detectorists mostly do. It amounts to "There's no such thing as Society" doesn't it?

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