UK Treasure Trove Act Changes

January 12, 2010

January 12, 2010

An amendment to the legal framework in the UK concerning finds which are classed as ‘treasure’ was passed on 12th November 2009. For the purposes of the law, ‘treasure’ means an object or group of objects more than 300 years old with more than 10 per cent gold or silver. There has for a long time been a legal duty to report finds of treasure to the authorities; a coroner will then conduct an inquest to determine wther the treasure was lost (and thus the property of the crown) or hidden with a view to recovery, in which case the coroner must try to trace the owner or any surviving legal heirs (and should non be found the treasure reverts to the crown).
The new law, incorporated in the ‘Coroners and Justice Bill 2009′, makes it the legal duty of the possessor of any item which is or might be treasure to report it within 14 days of acquiring it or becoming aware that it might be treasure. Previously the onus was on the finder of any such item, but now the duty of reporting (disclosure) rests with the person in possession of the item. This will obviously have implications for dealers who hold stocks of coins and antiquities with significant gold or silver content. The act applies to England and Wales, but the Scottish position is slightly different due to the automatic duty to dislose which already exists in that country.
The only defence in law appears to be (i) to demonstrate that the item is not treasure or (ii) to establish that the item has already been reported when acquired. Ignorance of the law is not a workable legal defence!
The act does allow for a defence that the defendant may have a reasonable excuse for online pharmacies failing to notify; until this is tested in court, there is no means of knowing what will qualify as a reasonable excuse.
The punishment for being found guilty of not reporting extends to up to 51 weeks’ imprisonment and / or a fine of up to GBP 5000.
While reporting of finds of antiquities (whether treasure or not) is a laudable aim, it seems likely that this change in the law will potentially capture many people who find objects while gardening, walking the dog, making sandcastles on the beach and so on. The case law established here will be interesting!


No Comments Yet.

Got something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.