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28th Jun, 2022

Metal detectorist who dug over 30 holes around remains of protected Norman castle sentenced to community service

A METAL detectorist who dug over 30 holes near the remains of a protected Norman castle in Rugby Borough has been sentenced to community service – the first prosecution of its kind in Warwickshire.

After several adjournments, the man has pleaded guilty at Coventry Magistrates’ Court to destroying or damaging an ancient protected monument and possession of a controlled drug.

He was sentenced to an unpaid work requirement of 200 hours to be completed within 12 months, and ordered to pay court costs of £490. His metal detector and associated equipment was also ordered to be forfeited and destroyed by the court.

Warwickshire Police received a report of a man and a woman using a metal detector at Brinklow Castle in April 2020.

Brinklow Castle comprises the remains of a motte and bailey castle near the village of Brinklow, and is a scheduled monument – meaning the use of a metal detector is prohibited.

Officers from Warwickshire Police’s Rural Crime Team investigated the matter in partnership with Historic England – and found over 30 holes had been dug within the boundaries of the protected land.

In August 2020, the Rural Crime Team executed a warrant at an address in Coventry and recovered several items including a metal detector, a shovel and associated metal detecting equipment.

A man and woman were later interviewed relating to the offence of causing damage to a scheduled monument and the illegal use of a metal detector on a protected site.

The man was charged to court for those offences, as well as the possession of a controlled substance. A woman received a caution for the offence of destroying or damaging an ancient protected monument.

PC Andy Steventon of the Rural Crime Team said: “We know that this person does not represent the majority of the metal detectorist community – true enthusiasts abide by the restrictions for scheduled monuments and other protected locations and would not go into areas where detecting is prohibited.

“I would hope this court result shows that Warwickshire Police will investigate reports of illegal metal detecting and that the protection of our nationally important archaeology is a priority to our team.

“I understand this is the first prosecution of its kind in Warwickshire and we are extremely thankful to the members of the public who reported the matter to us, and grateful to our partners at Historic England for supporting the investigation.”

Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime Strategy at Historic England, said “A decade ago, we did not have the skills and techniques necessary to investigate this form of criminal behaviour. We have now developed the expertise, capability and partnerships to identify and prosecute the small criminal minority of nighthawks.

“The overwhelming majority of metal detectorists comply with the legislation and code of practice for responsible metal detecting.

“When thieves steal artefacts from a protected archaeological site, they are stealing from all of us and damaging something which is often irreplaceable.”

Neil Rimmington, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, said “We are grateful to the local community who care so well for this impressive monument and whose actions have enabled this positive result.”

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