Following an investigation by Cheshire Police and Historic England into the theft of historic artefacts from protected heritage sites located across the Midlands and Northern England, four men from Tameside have been summoned to appear before West Cheshire Magistrates on 9 April.
Two men aged 33 and two men aged 31 and 29 will face allegations of unlicensed metal detecting in a protected place, sometimes referred to as ‘nighthawking’. The 31-year-old also faces a charge of producing a controlled drug of Class B (Cannabis).
Officers from Cheshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team have arrested four people in connection with the theft of historic artefacts following a series of morning raids in Greater Manchester.
Earlier today (30 June) search warrants were executed at seven addresses located in the Droylsden and Audenshaw areas of Manchester and relate to an investigation of unlawful metal detecting at protected heritage sites across the Midlands and Northern England.
Archaeologists from Historic England’s North West and Midlands regional teams provided online expertise and support for the police officers engaged in the searches. Four men aged 28, 31, 32, and 31 have been arrested and are helping police with their enquiries.
Artefacts, metal detection equipment and cannabis was seized as part of the investigation. The artefacts will be subject to expert analysis by finds experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and archaeologists from Historic England.
Sgt Rob Simpson from the Rural Crime Team, said: “Today’s arrests mark the culmination of an investigation of a group believed to be involved in the theft of historic artefacts from protected heritage sites.
“We recognise that the vast majority of the metal-detecting community comply with the laws and regulations relating to the discovery and recovery of objects from the land. But the small number of people who do remove artefacts unlawfully and damage ancient sites are depriving the community of our valuable history.
“Today’s action sends out a very clear message that the Cheshire Police Rural Crime Team is committed to protecting our rural communities, our heritage sites and its rich source of history.
“I would like to take the opportunity to thank officers from Cheshire Constabulary, including Specials, officers from South Yorkshire Police and colleagues from Historic England’s North West and Midlands regional teams for their support with our investigation.”
Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime Strategy for Historic England said: “Unlawful metal detecting is not a victimless crime. We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context.
“Historic England will continue to work with Cheshire Constabulary, the Crown Prosecution Service and the metal detecting community to identify the small criminal minority who are intent on causing loss and damage to our shared cultural heritage and to bring them to justice.”
Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane said: “I am incredibly proud of our officers and specials for their commitment to protecting our rural communities and heritage sites. Working jointly with other organisations, such as Historic England, to specifically target rural crime was a key focus of my Rural Policing Strategy and I think today’s outcome sends a clear message that this continues to be a priority in Cheshire.”