Lifetime metal detecting ban for Northamptonshire man is reduced to five years

Near Irchester, Chester Farm: GV of site of Roman town now Chesters Farm owned by Northamptonshire County Council 'Tuesday 27th November 2012
Near Irchester, Chester Farm: GV of site of Roman town now Chesters Farm owned by Northamptonshire County Council 'Tuesday 27th November 2012

A metal detectorist from Northamptonshire who was given a suspended prison sentence after he admitted stealing artefacts from a protected site in the county has had an indefinite worldwide ban on him using a metal detector overturned at the Court of Appeal.

Darren West, aged 51, was one of two men prosecuted after English Heritage officers spotted them acting suspiciously at Chester Farm, near Irchester, Northamptonshire, in July last year.

The officers noticed that fresh trenches had been dug around the prime archaeological site - which contains mediaeval, Roman and 17th century remains - and noticed them carrying spades and what appeared to be metal detectors.

West, from Rushden, received a 52-week suspended sentence, plus a 150-hour unpaid work requirement, after admitting counts of theft and damaging an ancient monument at Northampton Crown Court in December last year.

The theft charges related to admissions that he took artefacts from adjoining property, the Court of Appeal in London heard.

West was also given an Asbo barring him indefinitely from carrying or using a metal detector, a ban has now been cut to five years by Court of Appeal judges.

Mr Justice Cranston, sitting with Lord Justice Aikens and Mr Justice Irwin, said West admitted downloading maps and photos relating to the site, and “knew what he was doing” when he went onto the land at Chester Farm.

He said: “He was well-known in the area for having an interest in archaeology. He knew that the site was a protected monument and that he could not enter it with metal detectors”.

West’s legal team claimed the Asbo was too draconian and that the judge just “railroaded it through”.

Mr Justice Irwin said the Asbo was justified in principle, but it was wrong to make it indefinite. “In our view the order of unlimited duration was disproportionate. We would vary it to make a duration of five years,” he concluded.