Looters suspected of raiding Castle Hill in 'nighthawking' attack

Started by gash, August 22, 2018, 09:28:38 pm

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Illegal metal detectorists suspected of hunting for treasure at Castle Hill could be jailed if they are caught, according to heritage experts.

There have been several incidents of illegal digging on a grassed area at the historic landmark in recent weeks, the Examiner understands.
The incidents, thought to be the work of thieves known as 'nighthawks', have been reported to West Yorkshire Police and occurred before official archaeologists moved onto the site last week.

Members of the public are now being urged to be vigilant by local councillor Bernard McGuin who described the practice as "looting".

The Almondbury councillor said: "If there is anything of archaeological interest, it could be lost. Looters is the word for these people."

Earlier this week when the Examiner visited Castle Hill - which contains the remains of an Bronze Age/Iron Age hillfort - there were a number of small square-shaped holes on the large field. Each was about two or three inches deep.
Beside one of the holes lay a rusty metal hair clip which may have been a discarded 'find'. It is believed that ring pulls from drinks cans have also been unearthed and discarded.

A spokesman for Historic England, the public body which protects nationally important 'scheduled monuments' such as Castle Hill, said those involved in 'nighthawking' can receive prison sentences.

The spokesman said that there had been prosecutions which had led to jail sentences.

"The majority of the metal detecting community comply with the laws and regulations relating to the discovery and recovery of objects.

"Sadly a small minority carry out unlawful metal detecting which can lead to irreversible loss and harm to the historic environment and to our shared cultural heritage.
"Historic England works in partnership with the police and landowners to identify the offenders involved in night hawking to bring them to justice.
"As far as we are aware unlawful metal detecting is not a regular occurrence in West Yorkshire.
"In other parts of the country there have been prosecutions that have led to conviction and, in rare cases, imprisonment."
In 2016 two men from Kettering were told to do 200 hours unpaid work after they were convicted of unlawful metal detecting at a protected Roman site near Peterborough.
The pair were found guilty of offences including going equipped to steal and using a metal detector on a protected site without a licence from Historic England.
And in November that year a gang of metal detector enthusiasts were suspected of carrying out night-time raids at the 5,000 year old Cissbury Ring near Worthing,
East Sussex.
Kirklees Council has been approached for comment.
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