Damage to grass marked by a police ruler
Evidence of illegal digging at Beeston Castle, Cheshire. Bronze axe heads were recovered by the Police and forensic soil sampling was undertaken to ascertain a match. © Historic England Archive. DP234876.
Evidence of illegal digging at Beeston Castle, Cheshire. Bronze axe heads were recovered by the Police and forensic soil sampling was undertaken to ascertain a match. © Historic England Archive. DP234876.

Local Authorities: Dealing with Heritage Crime

This page provides advice for organisations, particularly local authorities, who deal with heritage crime and its consequences.

Responding to incidents

  • If you're concerned about a current or recent incident, contact the police and report a heritage crime
  • Be prepared to write a witness statement or impact statement. These form part of any formal police action. Statements ensure that the full impact of the crime on the community and the heritage significance are considered as part of the sentencing process
  • Are there any steps you could take to prevent crime and make an asset more secure? Contact your local Community Safety Partnership to find out what you can do
  • Consider whether to use statutory enforcement powers (such as prosecution) as an appropriate response to the heritage crime
  • Discuss with your local Historic England office the appropriate response to crimes involving a designated asset. These include scheduled monuments, nationally listed buildings, conservation areas, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields, protected wreck sites and World Heritage Sites
  • More information can be found in our guide to the range of interventions available for agencies responsible for the enforcement of heritage crime

Taking a strategic role

Local authorities have an important strategic role in the fight against heritage crime; local problems should have local solutions. Historic England can offer bespoke assistance to any organisation wishing to take a strategic role in dealing with Heritage Crime.

Steps for you to consider are:

  1. Identifying the designated heritage assets in your area. This information can be found on the National Heritage List for England or your own Historic Environment Records
  2. Focussing effort on those heritage assets most at risk using the Heritage Crime Risk Assessment guide
  3. Reducing the risks by implementing Heritage Crime Prevention Measures
  4. Developing a Heritage Crime Partnership in your area with other interested organisations. This might focus on crime reduction and enforcement or protecting the historic environment in the area.
  5. Considering meeting with your local Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). PCCs are responsible for reducing crime and for delivering an effective and efficient police service within their force area. They also work in partnership across a range of agencies at local and national level to ensure there is a unified approach to preventing and reducing crime
  6. Identifying other local groups who may be usefully involved in a partnership such as local civic or amenity trusts and societies who are interested in the historic environment. These could also include Neighbourhood and Heritage Watch organisations. Parish councils, churches and other landowners with assets vulnerable to heritage crime may also wish to be involved in a partnership
  7. Ensuring that heritage crime is included within the existing systems and processes of already established methods of managing crime and promoting safety in the area (for example Community Safety Partnerships). Also consider recording incidents of heritage crime in the area for statistical purposes
  8. Being prepared to take enforcement proceedings for regulatory offences and use the various enforcement powers available to a local authority to deal with buildings suffering from neglect. These can encourage incidents of anti-social behaviour and heritage crime

Please look at the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to understand the division of responsibilities nationally agreed upon between the Police, Historic England and the Crown Prosecution Service. If your authority has not yet signed the MOU, you might like to consider doing so.

Our e-learning module for heritage crime may also be useful to you. Although aimed at police officers, it provides much information on heritage crime in an urban setting.

Mark Harrison

Head of Heritage Crime & Policing Advice