1 February saw the announcement by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that a consultation has opened on a series of proposed amendments to the Treasure Act 1996 and its associated Code of Practice. The consultation period will last until 30 April 2019 and will be seeking views on a series of proposed changes:
- Revisions to the Code that would reflect the current treasure process and simplify that process;
- Revisions to the definition of treasure which would beter support the aim of the Act to ensure that museums can acquire finds of historical, archaeological or cultural importance;
- The making of an order to exempt from the treasure process objects found in association with human burials that are covered by the Church of England’s legal system of controls;
- Commencement of sections 29 and 30 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. These sections provide, respectively, an exception to the coroner’s duty to investigate where the Secretary of State or franchisee has disclaimed an article and a duty to notify the coroner of a find which might be treasure; and
- The long-term future of the treasure process and its sustainability.
The impetus for these proposed changes arises partly as a result of the growing number of declared treasure finds each year: 1,267 such finds in 2017,and the resultant need to accelerate the process. In addition, despite the great increase in the number of finds over recent years, the Code has not been updated since 2001. Since then the growth of online platforms where non-reported finds may be sold has made it imperative to put in place further controlling and deterring methods to prevent the loss and export of items that properly belong in a museum.
A full document detailing all the proposed changes and the associated questions for which answers are sought as part of the consultation can be accessed here. Anyone can respond and provide their views, though those most sought will be from archaeologists, coroners, curators, Finds Liaison Officers, metal detectorists and other relevant heritage professionals.
IAL plans to submit answers to DCMS on the proposed changes.