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Back in January of this year, I was witness to unthinking desecration by a family group at Men an Tol. I recently returned to the scene, or rather, I attempted to return to the scene. On this occasion, my path was blocked by cows grazing on the approaches to the monument. The surface damage done by the grazing cattle was much worse than that caused by the family earlier in the year.
Indeed, I’m not alone in thinking that the damage caused could have easily been avoided, were it not for poor advice from certain government departments, coupled with the greed of the owners on whose land the monument lies. Save Penwith Moors, (SPM) a local pressure group acting to campaign lawfully for the removal of all new stock proofing (fencing, gates and cattle grids) from a few selected areas of open access moorland popular for local and tourist recreation, have been keeping a daily eye on the situation at Men an Tol, and have recently issued the following Open Letter to English Heritage, Natural England, Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network (CASPN), as well as the local MP for the area:
“More potential trouble at Men-an-Tol!
As at Tregeseal Circle the cattle are gathering around the stones and using the two uprights as rubbing posts as well as covering the area with heaps of dung and ruining the public right of way – virtually impassable down towards the stream – by churning it up.
This is not an isolated out of the way site – and that would be no excuse anyway – but, probably, the most popular frequented ancient monument in the Peninsula and an iconic part of Cornish Heritage. It is high time remedial action was taken after this warning message – preferably by removing grazing stock from this Croft and undertaking manual maintenance.”
The Save Penwith Moors campaign web site and Facebook page includes photographic and video evidence of the damage being caused by the ill-conceived grazing policies as instigated by Natural England and (unjustifiably) supported by English Heritage who are ultimately legally responsible for the protection of the Scheduled Ancient Monument. We would urge all our readers to visit the SPM pages and give them every support possible in their campaign against the current grazing policies.
Yesterday’s Heritage Crime Test highlighted how the punishment for bulldozing the Priddy Circle was pretty low compared with other cases. In fact latest accounts suggest the punishment at Gelt Woods, Cumbria including costs was double what we said and not far off a million pounds! Yet the two cases have much in common. A very rich man. Damage done by employees. The Court accepting they didn’t authorise it themselves. The suspicion it was done to improve the value of the land. In each case the accused paying for “restoration”…. So how come the big difference in punishment? Awful though the Gelt Wood case was, flora regenerates whereas unique archaeology doesn’t. One might expect Priddy to attract a massive punishment, not Gelt Woods.
It’s because, it seems, that unauthorised work on a site of special scientific interest is a “strict liability” offence, i.e, defendants can be convicted even though they were genuinely ignorant of one or more factors that made their acts or omissions criminal. They may therefore not need to be culpable in any real sense (there is not even criminal negligence). These laws were created in the 19th century to improve working and safety standards in factories where few prosecutions happened because of the difficulty of proving mens rea (a “guilty mind”) and they increased the number of successful prosecutions. They tend to be used for two purposes, both of which ring a bell with those of us that see the ploughing out of barrows and such-like as an under-punished crime:
a. to enforce social behaviour where minimal stigma attaches to a person upon conviction and
b. where society is concerned with the prevention of harm, and wishes to maximise the deterrent value of the offence.
So maybe that’s the answer. If we want to prevent harm and to maximise deterrence (which were the two main issues that arose out of Priddy) we could make such cases strict liability offences. Of course, that would involve the public and the legislators being convinced that preservation of certain unique heritage assets is vital, a stage we haven’t fully reached yet.
There has been another interesting case about heritage crime recently, this time in Cumbria. So here’s a little test. Match the actual punishments with the crimes….
> Damaging a conservation site in Cumbria (by felling trees, excavating a significant track and damaging ground flora).
> Felling a protected yew tree in Chester
> Demolishing a house in a conservation area in Fulham
> Demolishing a house in a conservation area in Richmond, Surrey
> Bulldozing a Priddy Circle
£23,750 …. £40,500 …. £80,000 …. £129,000 …. £450,000
While you’re working it out, here’s some suitable music
How did you get on? Here’s the actual answer:
Update: We’ve discovered why the Cumbrian Trees attracted such a big punishment. See “Is Strict Liability the way to protect heritage?“
Its good to hear that the police have just had what is described as their “biggest success in the fight against British heritage crime.” Six men from Lincoln who stole lead from church roofs across three counties have been deal with very severely: Vidas Andruska was jailed for seven years, Andrius Cereska, Tadas Andruska and Andrius Kvedavas were jailed for four years each and Nerijus Razmas was jailed for 22 months. It’s a fair bet that none of those gents will ever go on a church roof again, nor will their friends!
And yet…. in the event that you get caught ploughing out a barrow, motorcycling on a hillfort, nighthawking on a scheduled site or damaging a standing stone, you can confidently anticipate a very modest fine or costs, a telling off and a conditional discharge.
So why the difference? Are church roofs more precious than those things? Who knows, but the inconsistency is even more striking when you reflect on a remark by the judge at Lincoln that he had borne in mind that repairing church roofs imposes a heavy financial burden on local communities. In contrast, if you plough out a barrow, motorcycle on a hill fort, nighthawk on a scheduled site or smash a standing stone there’s no financial burden whatsoever – because the damage can never be repaired!
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?
The penalty for bulldozing part of the Priddy Henges will soon be known. Bearing in mind some recent lesser cases (12 months in jail for stealing lead from a church roof and a £2,600 fine for installing uPVC windows in a listed farmhouse) Mr Penny might expect very bad news. On the other hand, imprisoning octogenarians for long periods is hardly appropriate, so it may well be that he’ll get what many will say is a light sentence and one that is insufficient deterrent to others.
But is focussing on the punishment missing the point? Isn’t reminding people there’s a punishment the real priority? In front of the King Stone at the Rollrights there’s a very old fashioned sign telling people that any person injuring or damaging it “will be liable to prosecution according to law”.
There’s no information board at the henge that Mr Penny damaged, they’re pretty expensive. But who knows, if there had been a simple, inexpensive warning notice, similar to the one at the King Stone, near the gate through which the bulldozer was driven, maybe the damage wouldn’t have happened.
ARCH (Alliance to Reduce Crime Against Heritage) is holding three briefing sessions this autumn for interested parties to learn more about the Heritage Crime Programme and Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage. The objectives of these sessions are as follows:
To explain the Memorandum of Understanding on Heritage Crime for Local Authorities and Community Safety Partnerships.
To further understanding of what constitute a heritage crime and the impact of crime and anti-social behaviour on the historic environment.
To help identify, through the sharing of best practice, effective partnership interventions, enforcement options and opportunities for multiagency working and community involvement.
Dates and locations of sessions
- 13 September – Cambridge
- 27 September – Sheffield
- 11 October – London
If you work in or are involved with the heritage sector and would like to attend, please visit the helm website to book a place. Heritage Action will hopefully be attending at least one of these sessions as part of our ongoing commitment to the work ARCH is doing.
We live in a world of Apps these days. There are apps to take photos, to issue diary reminders, to keep a journal, to play games, to socialise online with others, whatever you can think of, as the saying goes: There’s an app for that!
But there is one app that is not available yet that we’d dearly like to see. A Heritage Crime App – A crowd-sourced app for centrally compiling statistics on heritage crime.
There is something that comes very close, and that’s an app developed by Abavus/iTouchVision for reporting problems to your local council, called aptly ‘UK – My Council Services‘. It’s available free for all the major platforms; iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone and web, and allows a user (after registering) to send a report to their local council (selectable) about things such as abandoned cars, noise nuisance, litter, potholes in roads etc – there’s a long list of report types available and reports can include photos taken ‘on the scene’. Compiled reports are then forwarded on to the relevant Council.
Now imagine a similar app ‘My Heritage‘ that would allow a user out on a site visit to capture details of a heritage crime: graffiti, broken windows, metal theft, tractor or 4WD ruts on/near a scheduled monument, damaged information boards or other vandalism. Photographic evidence could be taken, and geotagged for inclusion in the reports which would then be automatically forwarded to the relevant authorities; National Trust, English Heritage, CADW, the Police, ARCH, County Archaeologists (if there are any left!) Instant statistics would be available to organisations to quantify hotspots for crime by type, location etc. which could prove invaluable in the efforts to reduce such crime.
An alternate version of such an app could also prove very useful for crowdsourced surveys such as this recent example on the Isles of Scilly, checking for coastal erosion.
So how about it, any app developers out there fancy following up on this one? Are any of the large organisations already investigating going down this path that we haven’t heard about yet? What heritage related app would you like to see available, or better yet, which apps do you already use, and why?