Letter: Thieves' market

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The Independent Online
Sir: I write as chairman of the British Art Market Standing Committee, a body with senior representatives from the auction houses Christie's, Phillips, and Sotheby's and, on the dealers' side, the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association, the British Antique Dealers' Association and the Society of London Art Dealers.

In your issue of 2 December ('On loan to the connoisseurs of crime'), you point out the problem of the doctrine of market overt, which protects certain sorts of stolen property in some fairs and markets. It is the unanimous view of our committee that the doctrine of market overt is now an unhelpful anomaly, and is positively harmful as an encouragement to criminal practices in relation to stolen goods.

It was abolished in Wales in 1542, and the trade would welcome an extension of the repeal to England as a small contribution to reduction of the crime rate.

Yours faithfully,



The British Art Market Standing Committee

London, SW1

2 December