METAL DETECTORIST CLEARED OF FRAUD BUT DID ACT DISHONESTLY

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A hearing at Hereford Justice Centre appears to have offered proof of a practice long rumoured to be the case on metal detecting forums, that is that some metal detectorists salt fields and rally sites with coins and artefacts from elsewhere and then dishonestly report them as being found at the location.

The case relates to sixty four year old Michael Jones of Rees Street, Port Talbot who appeared before Hereford Magistrates on March 11 accused on a single count of fraud by false representation.

Mr Jones entered a plea of not guilty at an earlier hearing.

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The magistrates heard that Mr Jones had purchased silver denier coins, minted by the Crusader kingdom of Antioch between 1163 and 1201, from auction site E-bay for £200.

He was then alleged to have buried the coins in a field at Oatcroft Farm in Titley, Herefordshire where one of the many un-regulated and unmonitored metal detecting rallies which take place almost daily in the UK was due to take place.

Mr Jones is then alleged to have “discovered” the coins during the rally which was held by the K C Rallys club in July 2021.

The find was then reported as possible “treasure” to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the voluntary scheme which logs finds of archaeological material in England and Wales and which supports the British Museum’s Treasure Committee in administering the Treasure Act.

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It is a legal requirement to report possible treasure finds.

Had the the dishonesty not been revealed Mr Jones and the land owner could have been awarded the commercial value of the find, split 50:50.

Mr Jones told the court he undertook the dishonest activity

“for the fame and bravado that goes with it”.

Mr Jones added,

“It was stupid, I know. It was a feel-good thing, I just wanted to make myself look good,”

“It was a moment of insanity, I just didn’t think.”

However, the Crown was not able to prove that Mr Jones had made the false report for financial gain.

The BBC reports that Chair of Magistrates Sue Furnival told Mr Jones,

“The prosecution has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that you intended to make financial gain,” adding,

“You did make false representations, but the crown could not prove financial gain therefore we find you not guilty.”

Informing the court of the significance of the find, had it been genuine, Archaeologist Peter Reavill, who at the time of Mr Jone’s activity was the Finds Liaison Officer for the area reporting to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, commented,

“…they would have potentially altered the history of Herefordshire”.

“They are very rare and very important, especially if they could be linked to the Knight’s Templar,” Mr Reavill said, adding,

“Such coins have never been found in the region before.”

While there is no evidence that Mr Jones himself has far right views or connections, the mention of the Knights Templar is interesting as the mythology surrounding the famous order of military monks is a popular theme among Far Right activists.

Officials of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and the numerous researchers who use its data, will also be concerned, wondering how many other dishonest reports of finds have found their way into the archaeological record without being discovered?

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