Saturday 1 May 2021

Sentencing in Great Baddow Iron Age Coin Theft Case.

               Proud Man United fan, but can't read Treasure Act for himself              

A punishment from a UK court that cuts right to the heart of a culprit's identity. A couple have been sentenced for offences under the Treasure Act of 1996. The pair both pleaded guilty after being summonsed to answer a charge of finding an object believed to be treasure and failing to notify the coroner. Wood also pleaded guilty to theft by finding.  (Iron Age treasure: Man's metal detector to be destroyed over coin theft BBC News 30th April 2021).

A man who found more than 900 Iron Age coins will have his metal detector destroyed as punishment for keeping 23 of them as a "memento". Shane Wood, 62, found the treasure while on a walk in Chelmsford, Essex, in September last year. Wood admitted the theft of 22 Staters and one quarter Stater, worth an estimated £9,850 to £12,350. He was sentenced at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court to 200 hours' unpaid work on an 18-month community order. Wood, of Hanningfield Road, Great Baddow, Chelmsford, also pleaded guilty to failing to notify the coroner of the find under the Treasure Act 1996, and was ordered to pay £200 to the court. The court heard Wood, an "avid birdwatcher", saw a feather fall from a buzzard and noticed a gold item in the field where it landed. Wood went home to fetch his metal detector and made the discovery, placing the coins into a bin liner.

Interestingly, this seems to be the same September 2020 (so, still in lockdown) story as was discussed by me here: Multi-purpose Access Agreement turns out Useful for Hoard Hoiker PACHI Thursday, 31 December 2020: "Digging down about 18 inches, he extracted a copper vessel brimming with gold coins dated back to the era when Celtic queen Boudica led a massive uprising against the Romans". See also Luke May, Birdwatcher stumbles upon £800,000 hoard of 2,000-year-old Celtic gold coins dating from time Boudicca was at war with the Romans Daily Mail 24 December 2020). 

He apparently handed in 933 coins (but Julian Hart Evans' Treasure hunting Magazine article says 1200 - so what happened to 300 coins?). He took them to the tenant farmer and walked off...   Groundworker Mr Wood however had not really read the Treasure Act thoroughly enough to know what his obligations were (nor does it seem that he was overly-concerned to show the archaeologists precisely where this bronze vessel full of coins had been buried before he hoiked it out from below plough-level):
The court was told Wood a well known detectorist did not notify the coroner of the find directly, but instead told a man who used the land who in turn notified the landowner who said he would contact the Finds Liaison Officer. Prosecutors said Wood did not have permission to be metal detecting on the land, though he said he believed he did. Police became involved and officers who searched Wood's house found 23 Iron Age coins. Mr Nicholls said Mr Wood's girlfriend, Kim Holman, had put some coins on top of the fridge or freezer and Wood "found them and the mistake that he made was that he thought he would keep them as a memento". Holman, of Chadwell Heath, Romford, East London, admitted failing to notify the coroner of the discovery of one Iron Age gold Stater. She was fined £160 and ordered to pay a further £139 in costs and a victim surcharge.
The case is mentioned here (Pair due in court over Chelmsford Iron Age Coin findspot PACHI Sunday 28th March 2021). I asked how the case was detected, now we know. Stupidity and entitlement. The story is heavily reported, including by the national and local papers. The 'Express and Star' for example has this one: Court orders man’s metal detector destroyed after coins kept as ‘memento’ Published 30th April 2021.
The additional coin?
Wood handed most of them over to the landowner but kept 22 Staters and one quarter Stater, with an estimated value of between £9,850 and £12,350, for himself [...] Wood had been interviewed by a treasure hunting magazine and there was a photograph of one of the coins. He said this coin was not among those handed to the landowner but was later found. He had no idea what they were worth but he just thought given the fact he'd handed over hundreds to the landowner he would keep some as a memento [...] “some days” after Wood handed over most of the coins to the landowner “it appears that Mr Wood’s girlfriend had put some of the coins that she was cleaning on top of the fridge or the freezer of the house”. [...] “What (Wood) didn’t appreciate is that as the finder of the items on the land the obligation is to notify the coroner himself within a prescribed time,” said Mr Nicholls. “He didn’t know that he had to do that”.

Perhaps somebody should just make sure he knows that he has to have a driving licence to go to the site by car, he might not know that either... 24 years of PAS outreach and he did not know... 

It's a bit confusing, Mr Wood found a binbag full of coins and gave them "all" to the tenant, but somehow his girlfriend had 23 coins that she was "cleaning". Where did they come from? He told somebody that the one photographed for the Treasure Hunter magazine had been found "later". Does that mean that he gained permission from the landowner to return, but if so, why was this coin not handed to the landowner to join the binbag full he already had? The press release by Essex Police adds some more detail (Mick Ferris, 'Couple sentenced over ancient treasure discovery in Great Baddow' 30/04/2021):  

Shane Wood [...] recovered the hoard over several days through illegal metal-detecting. Both he and his partner, Kim Holman, failed to notify the Coroner’s Court of the find and kept some coins for themselves. Wood handed the coins over to the landowner on September 30, who, in turn, handed them to the correct authorities. Officers became aware that some coins were not included in the handover after 62-year-old Wood, of West Hanningfield Road, gave an account of his finding in a magazine. The missing 23 coins were located at Wood’s home and were deemed to be worth up to £12,350. A coin held back by 61-year-old Holman, of East Road in Chadwell Heath, was valued at £300. [...]  Police Constable Andrew Long, Essex Police’s Rural and Heritage Crime Officer, said[...]  “We know most metal detectorists are law-abiding and we appreciate their support in prosecuting the tiny minority of criminals in the hobby.

Were they turned in by a fellow tekkie? 

1 comment:

Hougenai said...

Now why would he require 23 other mememtos when he had his 'Buzzard feather'?
(remind me to stop chasing the rainbow's end and start taking notice of moulted feathers).

What of the coins that were declared? There's no mention of his losing the treasure award?
If 23 equate to £10k, the remaining could be worth up to £400k, his share £200k(assuming a 50:50 split). Plenty of change after replacing his loss with a new top of the range detector, or an hourly rate of £1k for his community service.
What sort of lesson is that? Not just for him, but for all the other chancers only discovered after a responsible person (with an interest in the land holding) exposes an (irresponsible) detectorist?

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