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For over 20 years detectorists have been cajoled and flattered in a mostly vain hope their behaviour will improve. But now “speaking softly” has been supplemented with “carrying a big stick”: two detectorists (and a crooked dealer) have been jailed for 10, 8.5 and 5 years for theft and concealing a hoard.

Hopefully, these severe sentences for treasure theft will send a signal to the thousands of detectorists who don’t show landowners and/or PAS their non-treasure finds. That too can involve theft, despite any dubious “finds agreements” so they’ll know fines or even imprisonment are possible.

Are we about to relearn after 20 years of “education and outreach” that the most effective element of the strategy is intolerance? The rest of the world knows it is and indeed Britain has its own compelling proof: wild birds’ egg collecting is no longer a real problem thanks to (a.) adequate punishment and (b.) the lack of a quango constantly telling the public “responsible egg collecting” is fine!

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At last! The end of the back-slapping, laissez-faire, look-the-other-way, let-farmers-and-society-be-ripped-off strategy?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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