It drives me nuts, all this praise for the new sentencing guidelines and the fact they include “theft of historic objects or the loss of the nation’s heritage” for the first time. That’s fine but how come they don’t say a word about daytime stealing from us farmers? Doesn’t that matter?
Common sense would dictate that any metal detecting contract should have just one vital provision: anything regarded as a “find” should be promptly delivered into the hands of the owner with the strong recommendation that he should take independent advice on its significance and value before he decides whether to give any of it away. Yet I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I’ve never heard of a single metal detecting contract that contains such a provision. Not one. No doubt many detectorists are scrupulously honest. By the same token I have no doubt many aren’t. Taking from the owner is a crime, yet this sort of taking (by removing objects or providing false valuations) is missing from the list of heritage crimes. How come?
I suggest that if Britain hadn’t spent 20 years fostering a climate in which officials and legislators are frit to criticise detectorists this omission wouldn’t have happened and if Glasgow University hadn’t consistently rebuffed the Heritage Journal’s repeated pleas to widen their Encyclopedia definition of nighthawking it couldn’t have happened.
It’s now 12 years since Rescue News asked the question “Whose find is it anyway?” The answer now is the same as it was then: the object belongs to the landowner and/or the community and the knowledge always belongs to the community. None of it belongs to the finder. Rocket science it ain’t.