March 7, 2013
Metal detecting is a continual source of concern amongst archaeologists. While many famous discoveries have been made in this way, at the other end of the spectrum are reckless criminals who covertly ransack ancient sites with the sole intention of selling whatever they can find for personal gain.
Thieves who looted coins from ancient Roman site handed Britain’s first ASBO banning them from METAL DETECTING
Peter Cox and Darren West handed suspended sentences for theft
Caught digging up land on English Heritage site in Northamptonshire
By Hugo Gye
PUBLISHED: 15:41, 3 January 2013 | UPDATED: 07:37, 4 January 2013
Two thieves have become the first people in Britain to be handed ASBOs banning them from metal detecting.
Peter Cox and Darren West were given the unique punishment after they looted ancient coins from a Roman site belonging to English Heritage.
The pair were caught by police who raided their homes and found a haul of coins from the Iron Age, Roman and mediaeval periods worth hundred of pounds.
Officers also discovered pottery, metal antiquities and maps of Chester Farm, the Roman settlement near Irchester in Northamptonshire which the thieves ransacked.
Cox, 69, and 51-year-old West were arrested in the summer when they were seen illegally digging trenches on the land.
When police searched their homes in towns near the historic site, they were able to match the tools they recovered to plaster casts of marks left in the soil.
Experts from the British Museum helped to analyse and date the recovered items, which have not been officially valued, and link them to the site.
Cox and West pleaded guilty to two counts of theft from a scheduled monument on December 19.
They were each given 52-week suspended sentences and were ordered to pay £750 costs and £750 compensation.
The thieves were also issued with ASBOs preventing them from using metal detecting equipment.
The coins they discovered at the site are similar to the massive haul of 50,000 Iron Age items found in Jersey last year, the largest hoard of Celtic coins ever unearthed.
Chester Farm is best known as a Roman town, showing evidence of houses, a cemetery and even a temple to the local Romano-Celtic gods.
It also contains remains of an earlier Iron Age settlement, and was later the site of a mediaeval village.
The area has frequently been the target of thieves in the past, and a 16th-century farmhouse on the site was attack by arsonists in 2010.
After the hearing, Mike Harlow, governance and legal director of English Heritage, said: ‘The sentence sets an important watershed in the combat against illegal metal detecting and acknowledges its true impact on society.
‘These are not people enjoying a hobby or professionals carrying out a careful study. They are thieves using metal detectors like a burglar uses a jemmy.
‘The material they are stealing belongs to the landowner and the history they are stealing belongs to all of us.
‘Once the artefacts are removed from the ground and sold, the valuable knowledge they contain is lost for ever.’
CPS East Midlands senior prosecutor Mark Holmes said: ‘This case is the largest scale operation we have prosecuted for this type of crime.
‘It should serve as a warning to anyone else involved in this activity that it is a crime and if you are caught you face prosecution and a criminal record.’
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- “Back to the county where it belongs” (Perhaps we call it “cultural regionalism”) versus “Cultural nationalism” : November 28, 2012
- The ethics of metal detecting for artefacts : March 27, 2012
- British Prime Minister supports keeping Staffordshire Hoard near to where it was discovered : December 1, 2009
- Viking hoard returns to Harrogate : March 19, 2012