FOR the first time in England, two treasure hunters have been given a suspended custodial sentence and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBO) by a court for carrying out illegal metal detecting activities on a protected site.
Peter Cox, 69, and Darren West, 51, both from Northamptonshire, were sentenced at Northampton Crown Court on December 19 to one year imprisonment, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to stealing artefacts from and causing serious damage to a scheduled monument at Chester Farm, near Irchester.
This follows an investigation by a heritage crime partnership involving English Heritage, Northamptonshire Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the British Museum.
The sentences also included 150 hours of community service, a curfew, confiscation of metal detecting equipment, compensation for damage caused to the scheduled monument, and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders that restrict use of metal detecting equipment.
The monument at Chester Farm, owned by Northamptonshire County Council, 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.
Northamptonshire Police launched an investigation after two English Heritage officers witnessed the two men metal detecting at the site last July.
Damage had also been caused to the monument by the excavation of trenches, which had been illegally dug in search of artefacts.
The police arrested the men and conducted a raid at their homes.
Iron Age, Roman and medieval coins, metal artefacts and pottery, along with metal detecting equipment and documents relating to the scheduled monument were recovered.