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Man Pleads Guilty to using a Metal Detector to Steal a Roman Gold Coin

Roy Wood (52) a delivery driver of Lytton Road, Grays in Essex has appeared at Basildon Crown Court and pleaded guilty to using sophisticated metal detecting equipment to locate and unlawfully remove a Roman gold coin from privately owned land situated at Castle Acre, Norfolk. The coin originated from the period of the Emperor Valentinian and was valued at £200.

The Roman gold coin removed by illegal metal-detecting on privately-owned land at Castle Acre, Norfolk
The Roman gold coin removed by illegal metal-detecting on privately-owned land at Castle Acre, Norfolk © Essex Police

This form of theft is sometimes referred to as 'nighthawking' and relates to unlawful metal-detecting on private property/land, protected archaeological sites or other areas of archaeological interest, in order to recover historic objects or other items of value. It is performed where permission to survey and dig has been refused or never sought.

During sentencing His Honour, Judge Owen-Jones stated that the discovery of the coin was of "archaeological and historical importance" and that would be taken into consideration along with the defendant's previous good character. Wood was fined £400 and ordered to pay £250 costs.      
Essex Police works closely with English Heritage and police services across England and Wales to tackle this form of criminal behaviour and in April 2013, officers were contacted by the British Museum reporting that Wood was suspected of being in possession of items that should be reported to the Coroner as required within the Treasure Act 1996. 
In May 2013, Essex Police working with experts from English Heritage executed a search warrant at Wood's home address in Grays and found documentation implicating Wood in the theft and subsequent sale of two gold coins.

Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Advisor for English Heritage, said:
"Discoveries of individual artefacts can inform us about our past. The presence of a coin like this one indicates that the site was perhaps a Roman villa or temple, or provides evidence that the settlement was wealthy. That knowledge, in this case, has been lost." 
"We recognise that the majority of the metal detecting community comply with the laws and regulations relating to the discovery and recovery of objects, however, we work hard with the police to identify the criminal minority who operate outside of the law."

PC Andy Long, Wildlife & Heritage Crime Officer for Essex Police, said: "We work closely with English Heritage, CPS and the National Council for Metal Detecting to ensure the criminal element of this lawful hobby are brought to justice and I urge anyone who has information about such activity to contact me either by phone or email."

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