Letter: Finders keepers is no protection for our heritage

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Sir: Your recent article (21 June) highlighting the problems of theft of antiquities from archaeological sites in Bedfordshire unfortunately only describes one part of a very widespread trend. While most metal detector users behave responsibly there are a hard core who, like 'Charlie', will stop at nothing to acquire objects which they can sell on the open market for their own profit.

At present there appears to be little to deter such behaviour, as our law of treasure trove (originating in the medieval period as a means of discouraging individuals from avoiding tax by hiding their wealth underground) is largely ineffective and in any event only applies to a tiny proportion of actual finds of antiquities.

It is for this reason that the Surrey Archaeological Society, together with the British Museum, has drafted a Bill for the reform of treasure trove law. Lord Perth has undertaken to sponsor the Bill in the House of Lords and we are hopeful, following a number of meetings with ministers and officials of the Department of National Heritage, that the measure may attract government support.

It is certainly long past time that the portable heritage of England and Wales should receive the same degree of protection under the law as given to antiquities in Scotland and Northern Ireland, never mind throughout the rest of Europe.

Yours sincerely,

K. D. GRAHAM

Joint Hon Secretary

Surrey Archaeological Society

Guildford, Surrey

(Photograph omitted)

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