In a recent article, Ison Harrison looked at a somewhat obscure but interesting area of the law: how it applies to treasure, and the finding of it. A current case has highlighted the area once again, offering a stark example of the worst-case scenario.
In June 2015, George Powell and Layton Davies uncovered a massive haul in Leominster that was said to have been buried by a Viking warrior some 1,000 years ago. It included gold jewellery, silver ingots and coins.
As detailed in the article, the pair were obliged by law to declare what they had found to the local Coroner no later than 14 days after their discovery. Instead of doing so, Powell and Davies told the National Museum for Wales that each of them had found a single coin, at different locations. Had this been true, they would have been exempt from the provisions set out in the Treasure Act.
Powell and Davies’ next step was to engage the services of specialist dealers, Paul Wells and Simon Hicks, to sell some of the coins. Wells and Hicks were also convicted in the proceedings.
On 22 November, Powell received a ten year custodial sentence, whilst Davies was sentenced to eight and a half years. Wicks was also sent to prison, this time for five years, whilst Wells is to be sentenced next month.
These are undoubtedly strict sentences, but their length begins to make sense when we look at the charges: Theft, under the Theft Act 1968, Conspiracy to Conceal Criminal Property and Conspiracy to Convert Criminal Property, both contrary to s.1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.
The treasure is said to be worth almost £3m, which again is an important point. Whilst Powell and Davies expected to share the spoils of their multi-million pound bounty, they are instead spending the first of many Christmases behind bars.
If you require advice as to any of the matters raised within this article, please call 0113 284 5000. The implications of not complying with the law for treasure hunters are stark- so seek advice and avoid following in the footsteps of these enthusiasts.