LOCAL police have been hailed for the prominent role they played in a special operation to catch Kevin Lomas.
‘Operation Totem’ – led by Sergeant Alasdair Booth of Horncastle Police – was launched in February 2011 to combat illegal metal detecting in the Horncastle area. It has since been rolled out countywide.
Senior officers set up the operation following reports and concerns from members of the farming community who were suffering from trespassers carrying out illegal metal detecting, sometimes referred to as ‘Nighthawking’.
Significant damage was being caused to crops and artefacts were being stolen from out of the ground.
Police worked in partnership with English Heritage who were able to provide the support and advice on aspects of heritage-related crime.year-long
After Lomas was arrested, officers from the Operation Totem team were involved in a year-long enquiry to identify the property seized and gather evidence. Some items were taken to the British Museum and examined by experts.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) were consulted and worked with the team providing legal and charging advice.
At the conclusion of the investigation. Lomas was charged with 12 offences relating to the investigation.
Sergeant Booth said: “Operation Totem was introduced to deal with concerns raised by members of the farming community who were suffering from persons illegally using metal detectors on their property.
“This was resulting in significant damage to crops and the loss of unique historic artefacts.
“A great deal of work was carried out by the officers involved in the operation to bring offenders to justice and to send out a clear message that illegal metal detecting and heritage crime will be taken seriously.
“Many people seem to hold the opinion that metal detecting is a harmless hobby and feel that they have a right to roam and use their equipment at will, where they like, without permission or any likelihood of facing the consequences of their illegal actions.
“While there are many responsible people who legitimately enjoy metal detecting with the permission of land owners, while using the proper channels to register and dispose of items that they may find, there are a small minority who persist in operating outside the law.”
Sergeant Booth paid tribute to the support the operation had received from English heritage, the British Museum and the CPS.
He added: “I would like to thank our partner agencies for their help throughout the operation. Mr Lomas has lost his equipment, a number of artefacts, paid costs and now has a criminal record as result of his actions. Behaviour such as his removes part of our heritage and will not be tolerated.”
Mark Holmes, Senior Crown Prosecutor, CPS East Midlands said, “This case was unusual and not straightforward to prosecute.
“However, thanks to joint working with the police and English Heritage, by the time the case came to court, the evidence against Mr Lomas was compelling.
“It is important that the nighthawking ‘community’ sit up and take notice that this is not a harmless activity, but a criminal activity that robs us all of our historical heritage.”
Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Advisor Heritage Crime Programme and Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage (ARCH), English Heritage said: “Cases of unlawful metal detecting have been prosecuted before, but this is the first time we have taken such a co-ordinated team approach, involving an expert lawyer, dedicated police investigators, finds experts and archaeologists.”
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Weather for Horncastle
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 14 C
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Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
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