Men convicted of ‘nighthawking’ at Peterborough historical site

Aerial image of Durobrivae Roman Town: Copyright Dr Stephen Upex
Aerial image of Durobrivae Roman Town: Copyright Dr Stephen Upex
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Two men who were caught illegally using a metal detector at a Peterborough historical site have been sentenced at court.

Keith Stacey and Samuel Wildman, from Kettering, were convicted of unlawful metal detecting at Durobrivae Roman town, a protected Roman site at Water Newton near the city.

They were both sentenced to a 12 month community order, 200 hours unpaid work and have to pay £300 costs after being found guilty at Peterborough Magistrates Court of offences including attempted theft, going equipped to steal and using a metal detector on a protected site without a licence from Historic England.

In May 2015, Stacey (38) of Central Avenue, Kettring, and Wildman (24) of Orchard Crescent, Kettering, were found in possession of metal detecting equipment on private farm land within the Romano-British town of Durobrivae, near Water Newton. This area is protected as a ‘scheduled monument’. The detectorists’ activity was witnessed by a farm worker who was able to take photographic evidence and reported the incident to Cambridgeshire Police and Historic England.

This case forms part of ‘Operation Chronos’ the national campaign to tackle ‘nighthawking.’ John Neale, Assistant Planning Director for Historic England in the East of England said: “This case sends a clear message that illegal metal detecting on protected heritage sites is not acceptable. The local community are vigilant and encourage a determined response.”

Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Advisor for Historic England said: “This conviction is the first for unlawful metal detecting at Durobrivae Roman town and sets a precedent in the fight against heritage crime. Historic England will continue to work with the Police, 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.”

The Romano-British town of Durobrivae and its suburbs have in the past been the target for illegal metal detecting or ‘nighthawking’ and perimeter fencing has recently been installed to secure vulnerable points along the A1 in an attempt to prevent this form of criminal behaviour.

Historic England continues to work closely with the landowners, Natural England, Cambridgeshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service to help protect this site from heritage crime.