A judge in Northampton has called for a new law to cover the theft of items of cultural heritage after sentencing two men who used metal detectors to steal medieval coins from a protected site.
Peter Cox, aged 69, and Darren West, aged 51, were sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for two years, after they admitted causing serious damage to a scheduled monument at Chester Farm, near Irchester, and stealing items from the site.
For the first time in England, the two men were also given anti-social behaviour orders (ASBO) which bans them from using metal detectors on land they do not own, unless they have written permission from the landowner.
The scheduled monument at Chester Farm, owned by Northamptonshire County Council (NCC), includes Iron Age and medieval settlement remains, but is most significant for its surviving remains of a Roman walled town that includes roads, temples and many other buildings.
The site has suffered from trespassers in recent years and a Grade Two-listed 16th and 17th-century farmhouse on the site was seriously damaged by arson in 2010.
Judge Richard Bray, sentencing, s aid he was concerned the CPS had only been able to prosecute Cox and West under the Theft Act, which he felt was inadequate for cases of heritage theft where it was hard to assess the loss to the landowners. He said: “I think there should be some form of cultural heritage act which could be used to protect sites of archeological importance.
“In the age of metal detectors, archeological sites are at greater risk than ever before,” he added.
Cox, of Thirlmere Close, Kettering, was given a four-month curfew order from 7pm to 7am.
West, of Duke Street, also in Kettering, must carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
They must pay costs of £750 and compensation for the damage caused to the scheduled monument.
The metal-detecting equipment seized from them has been confiscated.