The difficulty with dubious policies is ensuring everyone on your team stays on-message. So it is with British law and policy on portable antiquities. Sometimes organisations are visibly embarrassed by the fact positions they feel are right to adopt conflict with the official one. The very existence of such inconsistencies is persuasive evidence that something’s wrong.
A star example is displayed in English Heritage’s official definitions. Heritage Assets are (inter alia): “Undesignated but acknowledged heritage buildings and sites” and Heritage Crime is “Any offence which harms the value of England’s heritage assets”. Who could disagree? Heritage Crime is an offence that harms the value of undesignated but acknowledged heritage buildings and sites.
However, as they and everyone know, the target of desire of all legal metal detecting is undesignated but acknowledged heritage buildings and sites and not reporting finds from those assets harms their value. So the only thing that prevents legal metal detecting without reporting finds from fitting the definition of Heritage Crime is the fact it isn’t an offence!
That’s an inescapable and embarrassing inconsistency for our country for it means that for 15 years we have had a policy designed to avoid criminalising something which, in all respects other than being a crime, is considered a crime! And it’s not us that are saying so, it’s the Government’s own designated heritage champions. (Over to you, Houdini Department. Bon chance!)
For avoidance of doubt, our complaint is not against those who are conducting the fight against heritage crime – we are members of ARCH, the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage and we’ve always been fully supportive of everything they do and always will be. Our complaint is against the Government – for not regulating metal detecting and not legislating to designate “metal detecting and not-reporting” a crime. The damage caused by the latter dwarfs that caused by nighthawking at a probable ratio of 7,000 : 300 so they really have no excuse.
[For more, put embarrassing inconsistencies into the search box.
A question: if someone can come up with a series of such inconsistencies and no-one denies they exist does it signal a fundamental defect in policy?]