An email doing the rounds to all the press guys at present. Very interesting and many valid points.
Dear Sir / Madam
I believe this young lady`s prosecution to be extremely shaky at the very best. I have been a detectorist for 30 years and have much experience both with making finds and the Treasure Act 1996. My comments are as below. I can be contacted on ................in the event of any additional information being required. This is a landmark legal case and the back ground to it requires modification to the afore mentioned Act before serious problems are encountered.
Kind regards Julian Evan-Hart
In relation to the recent publicised case of Kate Harding being prosecuted under the Treasure Act 1996 for failure to surrender a French “Piedfort” coin dating from 1322-1328 to a Coroner. I was surprised and concerned to hear of this incident and immediately realised it raises quite a few questions. Having been a metal detectorist for over three decades I am of course always interested in such issues and the consequent actions and resulting opinions of persons involved. Therefore in the light of this I have a few opinions which are solely my own, but I hope will have some relevance to the issue.
Firstly as we all know single isolated finds of silver coins whether modern or ancient do not concern the parameters of the Treasure Act 1996. The key word here is isolated....if you find a single coin that is definitely from a hoard, discovered in the past, right then, or in the future then rightly so this would hopefully concern the Treasure Act as its correct that hoards should to the best of all opportunity be retained as a whole. Now I know nothing of the finder, the finding or resultant actions or non –actions in this issue, my primary concern here is the case of something clearly not being covered by the Treasure Act due to the latter`s wording... and therefore being wrongly classified, and the whole incident undoubtedly being held up aloft by the critics of coin collecting and metal detecting and a prosecution levied for which I believe the results will cause more damage once again to the highly beneficial hobby of metal detecting...even if such finds are or were not made by such methods .
Now according to the Treasure Act 1996 a “COIN” includes any metal token which was or can reasonably be assumed to have been used or intended for use as or instead of money”
“MONEY” is defined as something in this case metallic ....used to obtain goods or services or to repay debt and in the case of silver or gold backed currencies can be used to trade back a representative amount in value of either metal.
Now before this all gets wildly too complicated there are a number of issues to be raised here it is perhaps wise to seek some established definitions of the word PIEDFORT.
Wikipedia- PIEDFORT- “Is a COIN often exactly twice its normal weight and thickness-not normally for circulation but for presentation.
MIMI.Hu – PIEDFORT- a COIN struck on a thicker blank than usual-It’s fascinating to see a COIN twice or more times its normal thickness.
Eurocoins.co.uk – this website has a British Euro Pattern Piedfort 5 Euro COIN for sale.
EBay- PIEDFORT- Heavy weight COINS
Royal Mint in 2009 struck a PIEDFORT Proof COIN “in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Henry V111 and another in 2010- “The 2010 Girlguiding UK 50p PIEDFORT silver Proof COIN.
So whilst it seems the entire rest of the World considers PIEDFORT`s to be COINS...they don’t seem to fit the description of a COIN under the 1996 Treasure Act. This is where we seem to have the problem. However if under the Treasure Act Miss Harding’s find was not a COIN then its seems it must be classed as an ARTEFACT....which in itself seem somewhat unusual, surely such terminology applies to things such as: rings, axe-heads, medals, jewellery incorporating coins i.e. pendants, rings and bracelets, brooches etc. But of more consequence is the application of this modern definition of PIEDFORT. Just because today we produce PIEDFORTS not meant for circulation (SO NOT CLASSED AS MONEY), and or as presentation pieces or gifts...I would very much like to meet the people who have decided that our modern day definition and classification can be 100% case proven and is applicable to a find manufactured some 700 years ago, and more importantly that English Law can base a prosecution on this. I think it`s a tad pompous of those responsible here to give themselves the wholly unsubstantiated authority in claiming this knowledge in relation to this coin. Miss Harding’s find fits the modern day definition of PIEDFORT it would seem, but how can one apply that to a past scenario...we have no idea how why or what this find relates to precisely. A single similar coin was also found in UK recently, but who is to say several pieces were not trialled on thicker flans, were even tariffed at double value (hence double thickness) and meant for circulation as normal coins. This reminds me of academics stating that all plated Celtic and Roman coins are contemporary forgeries.....what rubbish...in thousands of years time will the finder of hundreds of our 1p coins class all these as forgeries just because they are copper plated now.. There is a rather ignorant and somewhat almost desperate flavour to Miss Harding’s treatment that I find rather unpalatable....to make an example from someone who honestly declared their find initially is akin in this modern day Britain to likes of the issuing of tickets in hospital car parks to relatives of sick and dying persons......morally inappropriate!!!! To some people it would appear more important to make the “First Showcase Example” than to discuss the reasons. Certainly seems to me that this case declaring it a PIEDFORT in this legal issue will result in some museum acquiring an exhibit for free at the finder’s expense...one ponders. Just because it fits our modern day definitions of a PIEDFORT does not mean that the ancient find actually is one......
Dr Michael Lewis of the British Museum when he quotes “This is a landmark case and sends a clear message to those who fail to report treasure” Well unless this issue is sorted I would say yes it could well be a “landmark” or even a “milestone” and for all the reasons that it shouldn’t be. In this case Miss Harding’s find would by almost all other sources be classed as a COIN. Just because modern day PIEDFORTS are not used as money does not mean that PIEDFORTS (if that term or object even existed then) were not classed as COINS and used as money 700 years ago. However I believe the time has come when PIEDFORTS should obviously be classed as COINS and not ARTEFACTS and think that if this area is going to cause such problems, then the Treasure Act 1996 needs a minor adjustment firstly so that PIEDFORTS are classed under the term COIN
And secondly we don’t have a repetition of this rather embarrassing issue for COINS are quite clearly what they are......they are round in shape and were struck on official dies so they are COINS!!!
Therefore whilst I believe a PIEDFORT issue is a COIN, it may not actually be MONEY in modern times or terms, and as for past old/ ancient issues NO ONE KNOWS.....one thing we can be sure of though and that is such issues are most certainly not an ARTEFACT or OBJECT.....and to class them as such is ludicrous.. I re-iterate that if the Legal world is going to treat all such issues or suspected issues irrespective of how old ...as PIEDFORTS then the Treasure Act surely has to class them as COINS irrespective of whether they served a monetary purpose....otherwise for sure there will be far more prosecutions based on this foolishness and many more people wondering about the so called legal position concerning silver Jettons and silver and gold Celtic Staters no doubt
If those responsible for Act amendments fail to heed this and fail to recognise PIEDFORTS as such then they most certainly award themselves the age old adage involving the words Law and Ass. It is blatantly obvious that the Treasure Act needs amending now as its flooded at the tax payers expense with hundreds of repetitive finds such as broken silver bodkins, roman rings, spoon bowls etc that are wasting all our time....so we hardly need PIEDFORTS jumping on the time wasting band wagon....do we ??
Excepting MEDALS, ROMAN CUBE MATRICES, AND ROMAN DATING SHEETS OF LEAD BEARING COIN DIE IMPRESSIONS / TEST PIECES ......if its Metallic, thin and round (in most cases) and bears stylised designs, Monarchs heads or other official design, and it was struck on a die...and IT IS NOT KNOWN WHAT IT IS OR ITS PRECISE PURPOSE WAS......THEN UNTIL YOU DO.... IT MUST BE CLASSIFIED AS A COIN AS THIS IS THE CLOSEST ESTABLISHED AND IDENTIFIED CATEGORY THIS APPLIES TO PIEDFORTS, STATERS AND JETTONS.....CRIKEY EVEN THE VICTORIAN GAMING COUNTERS / PLAYING CARD SERIES STRUCK IN BRONZE ARE CALLED “TOY MONEY”
Finally and perhaps very importantly brought to my attention by a fellow metal detectorist
The data base of the Governments....Portable Antiquities Scheme contains the following statement as relates to a previously found PIEDFORT
"Piedforts are unusual objects and their actual purpose has never been clearly established"
Therefore surely it would be seemingly unfair to prosecute and award a given category of fine under a legal Act that cannot itself seem to establish the nature and category of the item in question.