Friday 2 April 2021

Friday Retrospect: Two Years to Prosecute a Case? What Went Wrong?


         Durham: nothing to see here, move along          
The UK is not very good at prosecuting cultural crime cases. Exactly a year ago I did a "Friday Retrospect" on the "Durham Area Coelwulf Hoard", saying it'd by then dragged on a year. The head of the PAS promised (privately, no public statement has been made) that the case was still ongoing and there'd be results soon. That's looking increasingly unlikely now. In Darkest Essex, the local police had a couple of detectorists in court in just six months after they reportedly dug up a haul of coins. So, in this Durham case, what happened? Who dropped the ball? Were UK officials mistaken, or were they outsmarted by the artefact hunters and dealers? Why is it so difficult to press charges in cases concerning portable antiquities in the UK? Is it the same lack of transparency that affects the whole antiquities trade, and what concerted efforts are British archaeologists making to change those parameters? None that any of us can see. It is surely time for PAS and Treasure Registrarrs to come clean and tell us what happened and what went wrong, and where those artefacts are now? (Because they are still not on the PAS database.)

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