Pc Andy Long, Heritage Crime Officer for Essex, recently tweeted: “Most detectorists follow the Code of practice for responsible metal detecting – nighthawkers don’t!”
Er, no Andy, that’s a gigantic whopper. The police and others are constantly confusing the crime divide – between those who break the law and those who don’t – with the cultural damage divide – between those who keep to the official code and those who don’t. Not being a nighthawk just means you’re not a criminal, nothing else. It doesn’t mean you’re responsible – and the reality is that most legal detectorists don’t keep to the official code or report all their finds – and because there are so many of them the knowledge loss they cause dwarfs that done by nighthawks. The figures prove it and PAS agrees. It’s not on to tell the public otherwise.
But what about the second policeman? Well, that’s Chief Inspector Mark Harrison, Policing and Crime Advisor to English Heritage and part of the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage. He re-tweeted Andy Long’s untrue statement, thereby apparently endorsing it. It’s crazy. How many more times must we point this out Mark? Don’t take our word for it, take a look at the words of Penny English, Head of Anglia Law School, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge: “a disjuncture exists between law (which defines activities that are illegal) and morality (which identifies behaviour that is wrong).” It is not for the police to avoid mention of – and indeed misrepresent – “behaviour that is wrong” simply because it isn’t illegal. To do so is not merely to mislead the public it is also to aid and abet heritage damage. Can the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage please, finally, desist?
So that’s the two policemen we mentioned in the title. What about the detectorist? That’s easy. It’s Pc Andy Long. He’s one.