On 18th November English Heritage organised a seminar at Burlington House on ‘Combating Nighthawking: Reducing the threat from illicit metal detecting’. The main aim was to report on various measures taken to follow up the suggestions of the ‘Nighthawking report’ and to give a voice to interested parties, particularly those who did not speak at the report launch in February 2009 (see RN 106).
The day was chaired by Professor Barry Cunliffe who stressed that the focus was on illegal and destructive metal detecting, one type of heritage crime, and not about legal detecting and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. He did however comment that his views about the latter had changed from initial scepticism to recognition that the PAS was ‘a spectacular success… and the envy of most of Europe’. For English Heritage Mike Harlow, legal director, described discussions with the police, especially Association of Chief Police Officers about heritage crime. EH are recruiting a police officer for 12 months in 2010–11 with a remit to develop liaison between the various interested parties, draw up a memorandum of understanding between the prosecuting powers as to who does what about different types of heritage crime, create standard impact statements explaining the loss to society resulting from heritage crimes and draw up a strategy for practical approaches in the longer term. Dr Pete Wilson of EH who acts as lead on portable antiquities talked more generally about what they can and are doing about the various recommendations in the Nighthawking report, including plans to look more closely at the real scale of the problem in a hotspot area and a contrasting low risk area (such as the West Midlands where illegal activity may have changed since the publicity surrounding the Staffordshire hoard). Involvement at a local level will include the field monument wardens (now known as Historic Environment Field Advisors or HEFAs) in recording visible or reported nighthawking damage to scheduled monuments, and it is hoped that the local authority Historic Environment Records can do the same for non-scheduled sites.
The full article is available in Rescue News 109.