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By Nigel Swift

I see that Mike Lewis, Head of PAS and Mike Heyworth, ex Director of CBA have been raising awareness in the Times over the fact very few finds from commercial detecting rallies get reported. They have a huge point. Making loads of money out of Society’s back yard while giving almost nothing back to Society is surely not right? But there’s more than that for them to be scandalised over:

Here’s a rare Roman horse brooch from Leasingham found by a detectorist. He “allowed it to be put on display” in a museum. You (and Messrs Lewis and Heyworth) might well wonder what sort of self-entitled creepiness leads someone to “allow it to be put on display” rather than simply handing it over. That’s because if you (or they) had found it you’d have probably handed it over in a heartbeat. As that would be moral.

Yet sadly, the 0.04% of the British population, who find the bulk of Treasure items, mostly want paying. A lot. Or else. Even in a pandemic, and with the heritage sector skint. Britain really shouldn’t be being blackmailed. Indeed, the blackmail is about to be extended, presumably with the blessing of Messrs Lewis and Heyworth, with even more items never owned by detectorists being made subject to Treasure Act rewards for handing them over. It is being branded as “More items to be saved for the nation” but in fact, it’s “more items are to qualify for being ransomed”.

Why are moral pygmies being further enriched for doing something the great majority of the population would be glad to do without payment? Wouldn’t bigger penalties be cheaper than extending the rewards? If “paying for reporting” is a sensible policy why not pay commercial rally organisers to ensure finds are reported? Reductio ad absurdum, eh? Such a shame Socrates isn’t in charge!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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