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Entrepreneurs’ Relief

With the budget creeping up on us fast, it is important that you keep informed with the changes to Entrepreneurs’ Relief (EP) so that you know where you stand when it comes to selling your business. When you decide to sell your business or shares you own in a business, it is a big decision and there are many considerations to be made.

The current law

The current law allows for a seller of shares to qualify for EP if the following criteria are met: the shares must have been held for at least two years, the company must be a trading company and the shares being sold must account for at least five percent of the share capital of the company. If all of these criteria are met, the tax payable on the proceeds of the sale will be reduced from the flat rate of twenty percent, to a much smaller ten percent. This relief can be used over a lifetime, as many times as necessary, up to a maximum value of £10 million.

With this being the case, business is promoted and the number of companies within the UK has drastically increased since EP was introduced. The relief has been very important for owners of smaller companies who have later been able to sell on their businesses and retain a large percentage of the profit. However, it also allows for very big companies to get even bigger, as they are able to benefit from this relief. Although this can generally be argued to be a beneficial relief all around, there have been numerous complaints regarding the loopholes that are created because of it.

For example, the primary criticism of EP is that it can encourage individuals to set up their own private limited company, pay themselves through it and therefore reduce their exposure to taxation on their earnings. By providing a salary through dividends, lower taxes are in place and then when the company is eventually dissolved, ER will be applied to any capital remaining in the company. In the eyes of the government, this is a concerning loophole as business owners are being asked to pay less tax than those who work for them. For that reason, this may be reduced, removed or amended otherwise in this year’s budget.

How will it impact you?

So, how will you be affected if you intend to sell your business after the budget has been implemented?

This could mean that the capital gains tax bill you are liable for, on the proceeds of the sale, is much larger than it would have been in the years of ER. The overall process of the sale will probably not be affected but there might be some aspects that would be best changed in order to provide for the most tax efficient process. This is all speculative at this time, but when the budget hits, we will be here to help and to guide you through your business sale.

Get in touch with our corporate and commercial team to find out more and to see how we can help facilitate your business sale.

Is Planning Permission Required for Camping Pods and Yurts?

One issue which raises its head from time to time, concerns the ever developing world and diversification of outdoor activities such as ‘yurts’ and other camping and leisure activities on land.

This can be particularly relevant to some of our farming and other clients in rural areas.

A recent planning appeal regarding camping pods

A recent planning appeal has considered the planning issues, which may apply to such activities, and a planning inspector’s decision has held that ‘camping pods’ were to be treated as buildings for the purposes of planning law and regulations.

In this case, a local planning authority took enforcement action against the erection of (four) camping pods which the appellant argued were not permanent but should be treated as caravans.

Unfortunately for the appellant and in the circumstances of this particular case, the independent planning inspector when considering the matter on appeal concluded that the pods did not fall within the definition of ‘caravan’ which is set out in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

Why was the planning appeal dismissed?

His decision was based upon a number of factors, such as the degree of permanence of the pods and physical attachments to the ground.

He ruled that the pods would constitute ‘operational development’ under section 55 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.

Accordingly, the planning appeal was dismissed and the enforcement notice upheld which means that the appellant must now remove the pods within the terms specified in the council’s enforcement notice, or face prosecution.

We have previously published advice and articles about similar issues and would welcome any queries from clients who would like further clarification of the law and the relevant factors, which might apply to such initiatives.

Lanyon Bowdler has a team of specialist and experienced planning lawyers who are able to offer advice on such matters.

Electronic Signatures - A Sign of the Times?

When was the last time you signed a document with an actual pen - in ink? If you can’t remember, you’re certainly not alone. An increasing number of contracts are now signed electronically using a variety of online methods, prompting questions as to the legality of these agreements, which have not been confirmed with a “real” signature.

Electronic signatures can be carried out remotely, dispensing with the need for face-to-face meetings meaning a saving of time, travel, potential manpower and administrative costs. Plus, there could also be benefits to the environment with less use of paper and therefore less waste.

There are a number of issues to consider before a business should decide whether electronically signed contracts are best suited to them.

Are Electronic Signatures a Safe Way to Sign Contracts?

The world of corporate and commercial law is held in place by certainty; this certainty is paramount to business transactions. With the Law Commission having confirmed that electronic signatures can be used to sign formal legal contracts, electronic signatures are now, with much more certainty, seen as a safe and legal way for individuals and businesses to sign contracts. This allows for remote transactions, which can hold the same degree of validity as ‘wet’ signatures. With electronic signatures being accepted in statute, the certainty and level of trust in transactions is maintained, whilst simplifying the transactional process.

However, using electronic software to close contracts can be an expensive option. The software will also need constant updates as developments are made by the software developers. Larger businesses may more easily afford this and cover the costs with the savings they make in other areas, but smaller businesses may want to consider this carefully. One further disadvantage is that parties to a transaction may well never meet. This can be seen to be problematic as agreements may be better drafted, or drafted to a more suitable level, if face-to-face meetings occur.


On the plus side, a higher level of security can be guaranteed by using electronic signatures. This is because electronic signatures contain the signature itself, as well as traceable information, such as who signed it, when it was signed and where they signed it. Other advantages are that it isn’t so easy to destroy or lose electronic documents and they can be found more easily online than looking through paper files.

Parties can also opt to receive only electronic copies of such agreements, saving paper, and contributing towards a greener footprint. There are large cost savings owing to this as well because the printing, scanning and sending of documents can be completely eliminated.

Although a ‘wet’ signature is the best first choice, electronic signatures are binding and will be accepted commercially and legally.

Overall, electronic signatures can be seen to be highly beneficial within the business world. The advantages do, on the whole, tend to outweigh the disadvantages, so they are certainly here to stay.

Update - Proposed Reforms in Relation to Changes to the Small Claims Court Limit in Personal Injury Claims

In 2017 the government announced proposed reforms in relation to changes to the small claims court limit in personal injury claims from £1000 to £5000 in relation to road traffic accident claims and £2000 in other personal injury claims. In cases caught by this limit legal costs of assisting the claimant will not be recoverable from insurers. The proposed implementation date was April 2020. However the Ministry of Justice has announced the date is to be delayed until August 2020, having already been delayed from the original date of 2019.

I am not surprised that the implementation is being delayed again, as there is still little information available as to how exactly the system will work and how the unrepresented claimant will be expected to access it.

As the insurance industry wants claimants to be unrepresented in bringing their claims, any announcement of a further delay will be frustrating news.

I have always had concerns in relation to the proposed changes and the impact that they may have on claimants. In any personal injury claim a claimant has to prove negligence on the part of the defendant and causation with respect to their injuries in order to be successful with their claim and often there are complexities in respect of both of these hurdles. A claimant whose claim falls under the new limits proposed will find themselves faced with a professionally represented defendant insurer either without the support of legal advice and assistance or having to pay for it reducing their damages. Without any expert advice or assistance this may result in the chances of success being diminished or being under compensated.

The government needs to take their time in considering the reforms to ensure that personal injury victims are not deprived of access to justice under the reforms. The only way that the concerns can be alleviated is for the concerns around access to justice to be properly addressed and the precise rules to be made clear. If the government needs more time to do this, then so be it.

I would encourage anyone with a potential claim to start the process as soon as possible, before the changes bite and deprive claimants of recovering the cost of legal advice.

Coronavirus - what is it and where does it come from?

Coronavirus is making all the headlines at the moment but what is it and where does it come from?

On 31 December 2019 the World Health Organisation (WHO) China office heard about the first reports of a previously unknown virus causing a number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, a city of over 11 million people in Eastern China. The disease appears to have originated from a seafood market where wild animals were traded illegally. Corona viruses are known to jump from animals to humans so it’s thought that the first people infected contracted it from animals. However, some people without links to the market have also been infected so the exact source is still not conclusive.

The WHO advise that the incubation period between infection and symptoms lasts up to 14 days but other sources quote up to 24 days. Many symptoms of corona viruses are often mild much like a cold, runny nose, cough and fever. These symptoms can become more serious leading to respiratory disease such as pneumonia and bronchitis. This can be particularly dangerous in older patients or people with existing health conditions.

On 11 February 2020 the WHO announced that the official name of the disease was now Covid-19.

The majority of cases have been in China but cases have now been confirmed in many other countries including the UK. As of 17 February 2020 70,620 cases had been confirmed in China with 1,770 deaths from the disease. Approximately 715 people outside China including nine in the UK have been tested positive for the disease. So far six people have died from the virus outside of China.

If symptoms are minor no treatment is needed. If they become more severe, treatment relies on keeping the body going with breathing support until the immune system can fight off the virus. However, work to develop a vaccine is underway and the hope is that it will be available by the end of the year.

Very recent news reports that more cases have been confirmed in South Korea. The WHO has declared it a global emergency but believe it can be contained. It is also hoped that the coming warmer weather may slow down the spread of the virus. Let us all hope this is the case.

East Kent Hospitals Baby Death Investigation

At Lanyon Bowdler we have been working on behalf of a significant number of families affected by failures at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which has hit headlines again recently after news broke about the leaked independent inquiry report. It is therefore all the more concerning to read the recent news coverage concerning East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust which sadly tells an all too familiar story.

Investigation into East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust

Last week, a BBC investigation discovered that since 2016, at least seven preventable baby deaths may have occurred at East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust. One of those is Harry Richford who was born at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate in November 2017. Harry sadly passed away just a week after he was born following complications with his delivery and neonatal care.

On Friday 24 January 2020, coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks ruled that Harry’s death was “contributed to by neglect” and “wholly avoidable”. The BBC reported that the coroner identified a number of failings in Harry’s care including, but not limited to, failure to expedite delivery once the cardiotocography (CTG), which monitors a baby’s heartrate, had become pathological and a lack of consultant involvement during both the delivery and resuscitation attempts.

Upon conclusion of the inquest, Harry’s father, Tom Richford said, "Accidents happen every day but failing to learn from them appears to have become part of the culture of this trust. It was known there was a risk. The risk was present as far back as 2014." It is that failure to learn from mistakes which is most familiar to those of us working with clients who have been failed by maternity services. We have heard from many clients who were told by the hospital treating them that lessons have been learnt from their case, and yet more cases with similar facts continue to come to light.

A 2015 report by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists (RCOG) reviewing obstetric services at East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust uncovered a number of concerning findings that contributed to Harry’s death, including a reluctance/refusal by some consultants to attend out of hours when requested and a failure to attend CTG training. Despite these concerns however, the full report was not provided to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) until January 2019.

Criticisms from Dr Bill Kirkup CBE

This was heavily criticised by Dr Bill Kirkup CBE, the Chairman of the Morecambe Bay investigation into maternity and neonatal services at Furness General Hospital. He told The Independent: “When there is sufficient concern about a service to prompt an external review, the report must be available immediately to those responsible for assuring the quality of the service. That was the reason for the recommendation of the Morecambe Bay investigation, and it is disappointing that the Care Quality Commission apparently had no sight of this report until now.”

Towards the end of 2019 my colleague, Beth Heath took part in BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour alongside Dr Kirkup, discussing the news coverage regarding Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. He made it clear that he hoped that lessons would be learnt from the Morecambe Bay investigation report, which was circulated to other hospital trusts in 2015. Sadly there continues to be a worrying pattern of repeated failings in maternity care despite the rhetoric from hospital trusts of “lessons being learnt”.

Following the conclusion of Harry Richford’s inquest, East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust is now under criminal investigation by the CQC.

Lanyon Bowdler’s award winning clinical negligence team includes members of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel and AvMA panel members. The team has extensive experience of dealing with birth injury cases, in particular cases involving neonatal deaths and we are handling many cases arising out of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust baby death scandal. If you have concerns about the maternity care you have received, our team are happy to discuss the matter with you and guide you through the process sensitively.

Proposed Reforms in Relation to Changes to the Small Claims Court Limit in Personal Injury Claims

In 2017 the government announced proposed reforms regarding changes to the small claims court limit in personal injury claims from £1000 to £5000 in relation to road traffic accident claims and £2000 in other personal injury claims. The reforms were to be put into place in April 2019. The Ministry of Justice then announced in May 2018 that the reforms had been delayed to ensure that concerns around access to justice were properly addressed; the latest news is that the reforms are set to take effect from April 2020.

How will the proposed reforms impact claimants?

I remain concerned whether or not all of the access to justice issues have been addressed. The proposed reforms mean that claimants who suffer injuries deemed to be worth less than £5000 in a road traffic accident and less than £2000 for other personal injury claims will not be able to recover legal costs. The injured claimant has to prove negligence on the part of the defendant and causation with respect to their injuries in order to be successful in their claim and in all types of personal injury claims there can be complexities in respect of both of these hurdles. A claimant, whose claim which falls under the new limits proposed, will find themselves faced with a professionally represented defendant insurer without the support of legal advice and assistance. Without any expert advice or assistance, this may result in the chances of success being diminished.

Why has there been a delay?

Part of the reason for the delay was to allow the courts service to develop an online claims system for use by a claimant but, even with the reforms, only now two months away, there is little information available as to how exactly the system will work and how the unrepresented claimant will be expected to access it.

I have been operating the Rapid Claims portal system for road traffic accident claims since 2010, and since 2013 for employers and public liability claims. Whilst the system is working well, it still requires legal skill and knowledge.

I am concerned that many personal injury victims will be deprived of access to justice under the reforms and these concerns are not helped by the lack of information available in relation to the precise rules.

The best advice that can be given at this stage to any person who has been injured and is thinking about pursuing a claim is to do so as soon as possible and certainly before April 2020.

If you are considering pursuing a personal injury claim, contact Lanyon Bowdler’s specialist personal injury team who will be happy to assist you.

National Apprenticeship Week

This week (3 – 9 February) marks National Apprenticeship Week – the celebration of apprenticeships and the positive influence they can have on employers and, of course, the apprentice!

In 2019, Lanyon Bowdler took on two apprentices in two very different departments. Cameron Murphy joined our maintenance team as an apprentice maintenance engineer, while Izzy Hewins joined our HR department.

Below, Izzy and Cameron give us an insight into their apprenticeship experience.

Cameron’s experience

I have been an apprentice at Lanyon Bowdler for around nine months and have really enjoyed my time here so far. All of the staff are very welcoming and friendly, whilst always being professional.

When I joined Lanyon Bowdler as an apprentice, I was unsure what being an apprentice actually meant. However, now I have been one for some time, I have a clear understanding why the apprenticeship scheme is so valuable.

My time here has taught me some valuable life lessons, as well as skills to push me forward in my role. Every day brings new challenges, which is very important as it encourages me to achieve my goals and the company can get the very best out of me. I have learnt valuable skills that I can use in and out of the workplace. The variety of work is helpful because I rarely do the same thing every day; this widens my skill set and means that I am never bored of doing the job.

As an apprentice maintenance engineer, I get to work at each of Lanyon Bowdler’s offices, which enables me to socialise with other staff members, although currently I spend all of my time in Hereford due to a massive project. Whilst working on this project I have done most jobs working alongside my colleagues, who have been a huge help to me and taught me how to do everything efficiently and competently, whilst enabling me to widen my range of abilities when I watch them perform a task.

Before I joined Lanyon Bowdler, I had no idea what I wanted to achieve. However, after working here for some time, I realise that I would like to not only complete my apprenticeship but also stay on with the company after my two year apprenticeship and be a fully competent maintenance operative.

Izzy’s experience

I would always recommend apprenticeships and here at Lanyon Bowdler support is given throughout the whole process.

This apprenticeship has not only taught me HR skills, but also life skills. It has taught about me the day-to-day running of the different offices and also how to deal with every situation professionally and efficiently.

There is a great deal of variety within HR, which enables me to learn something new every day, meaning my abilities are constantly being developed and enhanced. Although not every situation I come across is easy and they are quite frequently challenging, it allows me to work and develop from the challenges, which will, in time, help and guide me.

Apprenticeships in general, and especially at Lanyon Bowdler, are a great way to improve you as a person and evolve your skill set. Much recommended!

Why does Lanyon Bowdler value apprenticeships?

As an expanding and progressive law firm, we value the range of apprenticeships and the opportunities they give us to grow our own talent and further develop our workforce. Both Cameron and Izzy are becoming real assets to Lanyon Bowdler and have already made positive and valuable contributions to their respective teams and the firm as a whole in their short time with us. We are looking forwards to supporting, developing and working with them both as their apprenticeships and careers progress.

Smile, You're on Camera

Reports in the media today have confirmed that TV cameras are going to be allowed to film in Crown Courts in England and Wales for the first time later this year.

New legislation will allow Judges' sentencing remarks in serious high profile criminal cases to be seen and heard by TV and online audiences.

Under the proposals the Judge alone will be seen on camera as he or she delivers their sentencing remarks ‘live’ with a slight delay built in.

Whilst the proposals are a step forward in promoting more openness as to how the criminal justice system operates, my concern is that the end result may be taken out of context if the public are not shown how the Judge reached his or her sentencing conclusion.

As a solicitor advocate regularly appearing before the Crown Court, my job, and that of the prosecutor, is to assist the Judge with reaching a sentence by referring to official sentencing guidelines and sometimes case law.

I also advance personal mitigation on behalf of the defendant which can often be persuasive in how the Judge then determines the overall sentence as part of his or her sentencing remarks.

Without full access to the sentence hearing, which can be quite lengthy, the public may be left scratching their heads as to how and why certain sentences are reached by the Judge.

It will be interesting to see what happens...

Heterosexual Couples and Civil Partnerships

Campaigners for mixed sex couples seeking to enter into civil partnerships as opposed to marriage rejoiced when as of 31 December 2019 they could finally conduct their civil partnerships.The change in law was to address the imbalance between heterosexual and same sex couples, the latter of whom have been able to enter into either a civil partnership or marriage since March 2014 (those in Northern Ireland will be able to marry as from later this month – January 2020).

So what are the similarities and differences between marriages and civil partnerships and why do people continue to choose to legally formalise their relationship rather than simply cohabit?


The major and most important similarity is that both provide legal recognition to a relationship between two people. In turn both marriage and civil partnerships offer many of the same legal rights in respect of various areas of law including financial remedy claims against one another in the event the parties’ relationship breaks down, parental responsibility, inheritance tax and intestacy rights.

Both heterosexual and same sex couples may enter into a marriage in England, Wales and Scotland.


The differences between the two are not significant, but here are the main points:

  • Civil partners cannot refer themselves as ‘married’ and married couples cannot refer to themselves as ‘civil partners’.
  • Civil partnerships are registered by the couple signing the civil partnership document as opposed to marriages where the couple exchange vows.
  • Both parents of the couple are named on the civil partnership certificate whereas only fathers of the couple are named on the marriage certificate.
  • In the event the couple’s relationship breaks down and they seek legal recognition of the same, the legal terminology for the two differ with a decree absolute/divorce being sought in respect of a married couple and a dissolution order being sought in respect of a civil partnership couple.
  • Some countries do not recognise civil partnerships.
  • Some associate marriage with patriarchy and a marriage can have religious connotations, whereas civil partnerships do not.
  • Given adultery is defined as ‘voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to each other but one or both of whom is or are married’, this fact cannot be relied upon by same sex couples seeking a divorce or dissolution of their civil partnership (unless the sexual intercourse was with someone of the opposite sex). If a party believes his/her spouse or civil partner has had sexual intercourse with a third party of the same sex, then he or she can use this as an example of unreasonable behaviour.
  • Same sex couples who are in a civil partnership can convert the same into a marriage whereas the same is not true vice versa.

What if couples cohabit as opposed to marry or enter into a civil partnership?

Common law husbands and wives acquiring rights through their cohabitation is a myth. Couples can formalise their financial arrangements by entering into a cohabitation agreement, but this does not offer the same rights and responsibilities as married couples or civil partners.

My Week's Work Experience - Brendan O'Keeffe

I recently finished a week’s work experience at Lanyon Bowdler’s office in Shrewsbury. It started on Monday 16 December. All my contact with Lanyon Bowdler prior to starting the work experience was extremely impressive. I was mainly in contact with Lucy Speed to organise the best time to arrange it. Lucy was very considerate to the fact that I am a university student and helped me arrange a time to fit around my studies. This immediately gave the impression that I would be welcomed upon my arrival at Lanyon Bowdler, as it was clear that Lucy was trying to ensure that the experience was done at a time that was good for me, so I could get the most out of it.

Day One – First Day Nerves

Even after this reassuring contact, I found myself optimistic but still quite nervous when the first day rolled around. Upon arriving at Lanyon Bowdler’s office any nerves I had were immediately quelled as I entered reception to meet various members of staff on the reception desk, who seemed very friendly and approachable, with a real emphasis on helping me get to where I needed to be. I explained I had been corresponding with Lucy Speed and that I was here for a work experience placement. Reception welcomed me and phoned Lucy to let her know I had arrived. While I waited I had a really good conversation with the staff on reception, who expressed that they hoped I would enjoy my week. When I met Lucy she seemed genuinely happy to meet me and sat down with me to go over an induction. She explained that I would be in various departments over the week starting with her in the Court of Protection department. I was given an outline of what my week would look like and with whom.

My Week

Throughout my week I was able to experience a wide range of departments within Lanyon Bowdler - Court of Protection, marketing, clinical negligence, employment and personal injury. I witnessed an array of the different areas that the firm deals with and met lots of different people with vast knowledge of their respected fields. A highlight for me was the ability to see how each department responded to the intricacies of their clients’ needs, which helped drive home the idea that no two clients’ requirements are identical and that you need to adapt accordingly to ensure a high quality service is delivered. Although the areas of law changed, each department maintained this client focus approach, emphasising the importance of the clients’ needs and desires.

Whenever I entered a new department I was always introduced to all the staff I would be working alongside. This removed any worries I had about being an outsider observing the workplace and made me feel like I was part of a team, even though I was only in each department for a small amount of time. The more open-planned office style helped with this a lot, as there was always someone to ask for help or just to bounce an idea off, despite being busy due to the Christmas period. I always felt like time was taken to explain each department’s role and function so that I could understand what was going on around me. Whenever I would ask any of the staff a question, you could see they were taking it very seriously and taking time to consider it and give me the best answer possible. Having this understanding meant I could follow the work that was going on and learn a lot as a result. Later in the week I was able to sit in on client meetings as well as departmental meetings and this solidified the idea that the staff at Lanyon Bowdler wanted me to get as much out of this week as possible. I also got to see the principles I had learnt regarding clients in action. Both before and after the meetings someone sat down with me to make sure I was able to follow it and not merely witness it, allowing me to take valuable lessons from these interactions. Without this I imagine I would have felt very lost, reducing the amount I would have been able to take away from the experience.

Diversity and Equality

I will briefly mention Lanyon Bowdler’s approach to diversity. This was extremely important, as I was applying for work experience with a disability meaning that I am wheelchair-bound. This was one of the main things I was nervous about, as I was concerned about how it may limit me. But throughout my week accessing the office was easy and without issue. I have been able to participate in everything that was planned, allowing me to relax and really take in the week as I had no concerns on my mind. This level of accessibility cannot happen by accident, as I have learnt over the years, and speaks of Lanyon Bowdler’s genuine commitment to diversity and equality.

It has been a great environment to do work experience in. It was friendly and welcoming without compromising professionalism and pushed my ability with challenging and engaging tasks throughout the week.

Please note that the deadline for 2020 work experience applications is 15 January 2020. If you would like to apply for work experience at Lanyon Bowdler, please send your CV and covering letter to work.experience@lblaw.co.uk.

Discovery of Viking Hoard Leads to Jail Sentences for Metal Detectorists

The legal obligations and responsibilities imposed on metal detectorists were highlighted recently in a well-publicised case involving two men who were given lengthy jail sentences by a judge at Worcester Crown Court for failing to declare and selling to dealers a very rare and valuable find of coins and jewellery in a field in Herefordshire. They were convicted of theft and concealing their find.

Two other men were also found guilty of conspiring to conceal the coins.

The Viking hoard, which included about 300 coins, a 9th century gold ring, a dragon’s head bracelet, and a crystal rock pendant, were discovered by metal detectorists, George Powell and Layton Davies, in 2015. Experts say the coins were Saxon but believed to have been hidden by a Viking.

Just 31 coins and some pieces of jewellery have been recovered; the rest are still missing. The metal detectorists failed to reveal the precise location of the hoard, or what happened to the rest of it.

Judge Nicholas Cartwright sentenced the pair to 10 years and eight and a half years in prison. Some may consider these sentences to be somewhat harsh but it is important to understand some of the reasons behind them.

Why did the metal detectorists receive jail sentences?

Firstly, the metal detectorists cheated the landowner. It appears that they may not have obtained the prior written permission of the landowner before carrying out metal detecting activities, and they failed to tell him about their find. Broadly speaking, “treasure” now includes all objects containing precious metal that were buried for any reason and are at least 300 years old. Failure to record a find of “treasure” could result in a fine and / or up to three months in prison. Finds must be reported to the coroner in the district in which it was found within 14 days. If the coroner declares the find to be treasure, museums will have the opportunity to purchase it. The treasure is valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee and they recommend a figure to the Secretary of State for Culture. The museum pays that amount if the valuation is agreed and a reward (equal to the full market value of the treasure) is usually paid to the finder and / or the owner / occupier of the land. In this case, not only did the metal detectorists fail to obtain the prior written permission of the landowner but they also did not tell him about the find. This means that they effectively cheated the landowner because he would have been entitled to half of the substantial value of the treasure.

Secondly, the metal detectorists cheated the public. The treasure belongs to the nation and it should be seen by others. If displayed locally, it would have been accessible to members of the public and would have attracted tourists who wanted to come and view the hoard.

Thirdly, the treasure is of historical significance. The Viking hoard dated back 1,100 years to the beginnings of a united English kingdom. It could have been buried by someone from the Great Viking Army in the 9th century, when the Saxons were pushing the Vikings back to the east of England. This find was the most significant link to this period of Herefordshire’s history that has been found to date. Experts will not be able to examine the sequence of events relating to the burial, or the relationship between the individual items in the hoard.

The sentences handed down in this case highlight the importance attached to our heritage and culture, in which we all have an interest. The items that have been lost to the nation in this case were described by the prosecutor as of “immense archaeological, historical and academic value”, which probably helps to explain why seemingly harsh sentences were passed in this particular case. The metal detectorists not only failed to declare their find, but they also sold the majority of the treasure to dealers and did not reveal what had happened to the treasure. They would have received a substantial payment if they had declared the hoard. If they had obtained the correct permission they would have been entitled to half of the value of the hoard between them, which was estimated at between £3 and £12 million. However, Judge Nicholas Cartwright said that the pair wanted more. There was clearly an element of greed.

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