CLA encourages responsible metal detecting

22 July 2020

CLA encourages responsible metal detecting

The CLA (Country Land and Business Association) is calling on all metal detectorists to abide by common sense rules contained in the Metal Detecting Code of Conduct after Northumbria Police recently arrested a man for theft as he was illegally detecting along Hadrian’s Wall near Horsley.

There are an estimated 30,000 metal detectorists in Britain, with many of them signing up to a voluntary code designed to minimise the damage they do to farmland. The code requires detectorists not to trespass by first seeking an agreement with the landowner or farmer, and also to notify the landowner if any discoveries are made.

By law, all finds must be submitted to the Portable Antiquities Scheme for identification and recording by archaeologists, which will then be made available to the local Historic Environment Record.

Metal detectors, which were originally designed to help find unexploded German landmines, have since been adopted by enthusiasts. Until the passage of the Treasure Act in 1996, discoveries were the property of the Crown, unless the rightful owner could be found.

Under current legislation major discoveries still have to reported to the Finds Liaison Officer, linked to the nearest archaeological museum.

It is the officer's role to decide whether the item should be classed as Treasure Trove, in which case it goes to the crown or whether it can be kept by the finder, who in turn has to reach an agreement with the landowner.

CLA North Rural Adviser Jane Harrison said: “We appreciate that the majority of metal detectorists are compliant with their code, and strongly advise amateur treasure hunters to abide by the same rules. The CLA is also warning private landowners that they are at risk of becoming embroiled in costly legal disputes if they fail to agree a contract with anyone searching their land.”

"Responsible metal detectorists can unearth much that contributes to our heritage, but landowners must have control over all activities on their property. Landowners should have an agreement in place before allowing people onto their land.”

“It is also important for the public to report any illegal detecting, such as on Sites of Special Scientific Interest and ancient monuments, to the police giving as much information as possible.”

The CLA has a pro forma agreement that landowners can use to facilitate metal detecting on their land, and its members are strongly advised to have such an agreement in place.

More information on the Portable Antiquities Scheme can be found at