Here is a letter we’ve sent to Mr Penny. You never know, it might be worth it.
Dear Mr Penny,
According to the police and English Heritage it is important that proper consideration is given to the impact of a crime on a heritage asset. We’d like to explain why we think that hasn’t happened at Priddy (and to propose a solution):
1. Your financial circumstances suggest a £48,000 penalty is relatively inconsequential.
2. It also looks lenient relative to previous heritage crimes, few or none of which had such a catastrophic impact.
3. Despite the value of your land possibly having been enhanced by what you did no confiscation order was applied.
4. Although not precisely equivalent, it looks anomalous that had you been convicted of metal detecting on the henge your equipment would have been confiscated whereas you still retain your bulldozer.
As you know (as it was your barrister that proposed it) restorative justice formed the backbone of the penalty. Trouble is, that’s supposed to comprise “restitution or reparative measures” whereas if you bulldoze something away it is absolutely gone so there can be neither restitution, restoration, reparation nor justice.
Worse, we feel that by offering to pay for rebuilding and then keeping that offer open with respect to the less costly plan to merely carry out a research project you established very low parameters to the amount of restorative justice you have been subject to. (An investigation costing only £38,000 will be very limited in both scope and the amount of knowledge gathered – archaeological investigations typically involve hundreds of thousands of pounds!).
Hence we feel you have got away rather lightly for the heritage crime of the century and that morally at least you still owe a significant measure of restitution to the community. We also feel there will be an on-going negative impact: the court has effectively put a very low price on top-of-the-scale heritage assets and now potential developers can do their sums and perhaps calculate it is worthwhile not playing by the rules. A much higher penalty would have been good for heritage.
May we therefore request that for the sake of your reputation, the feelings of those who feel justice is yet to be done and the good of prehistoric heritage in general that you now consider making a series of significant ex gratia donations to some of the many worthy conservation projects currently in need of support?