It isn’t often that you see reports of a treasure find, and even rarer that you get more than one in a relatively short space of time.

In the latest case, the Church of Scotland is bringing proceedings in relation to a hoard found on its land in 2014. Unlike in the rest of the UK, the rules in Scotland mean that the finder takes the spoils, but here, the Church thinks it is due an ‘equitable share’ of the £2m value. In other words, it feels it only fair that it receives some of the money, on the basis that the finder agreed at the time and the find happened on church land.

Contrasting cases have seen a much happier resolution. In January, Adam Staples and Lisa Grace were metal detecting in east Somerset when they found 2,571 coins dating back to the reign of King Harold II, making them around 1,000 years old- and potentially worth an eye-watering £5m.

In 2018 Steve King, Steve Lord and Andy Bijsterbosch located coins and broken plates used as bullion which dated back to the 4th and 5th Centuries in a field in Shropshire.

What are the rules in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

The Treasure Act 1996 stipulates that a find of treasure must be reported to the local Coroner within 14 days of it being found.

What happens if a report isn’t made?

Failure to report a treasure find can result in an unlimited fine, a custodial sentence of up to three months, or both.

Who can get a share of the valuation, and when?

If you fall into one of the below categories, you may get a share of the reward (payment can take up to a year):-

  • You are the finder, and had permission to be on the land and acted in good faith;
  • A person or organisation with freehold on the land;
  • Someone who occupies the land as a tenant of the owner.

How do I know if the find is treasure?

If in doubt, you may wish to make a report in any case. You can also seek advice from the Portable Antiquities Scheme. They have regional Finds Liaison Officers whom may be able to help.

The material may also be deemed as ‘wreck material.’ This is maritime material, such as the cargo of a ship. This has to be reported to the somewhat archaic sounding ‘Receiver of the Wreck’ within 28 days, or a fine of up to £2,500 can result.

Do I get to keep the treasure?

Sadly not. If a find isn’t classed as treasure, it will be returned to the person who found it (though the landowner has 28 days to object.)

If it is deemed to be treasure, it is likely that a museum will wish to acquire it. If this is the case, then the Treasure Valuation Committee will make a decision as to value, as well as how much will be shared out.

As the finder, you can make comments on the valuation as well as ask for a review if you disagree with the final figure.

This somewhat quirky and novel area of law is certainly an interesting one. Behind the news reports is a strict statutory regime, with strict penalties for those who fail to follow it. If you have any queries relating to this article, please do contact our Regulatory department on 0113 284 5000.

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