Thefts from Kent archaeology sites

Kent News

A train guard from Kent has been sentenced after pleading guilty to stealing Roman artefacts from archeologically important sites across the country.

Mark Staples, who lives in Swanley, was given a three-year conditional discharge for charges relating to theft and illegal excavations from a number of sites protected under the Archaeological Area and Ancient Monuments Act 1979.

He was sentenced at Dartford Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday morning.

The 39-year-old targeted mainly sites and objects of Roman origin including a mosaic from Spoonley Roman Villa in Gloucestershire.

Artefacts were also stolen from excavations at Chilham in Kent and Chanctonbury in Sussex.
Chief Inspector Mark Harrison said: “As a rich archaeological resource, Kent has more archaeological heritage than anywhere else in the country and this man has ruined some areas of these sites of any future scientific evaluation.

“Anyone who has an interest in heritage or who wishes to discover artefacts should join a professional society or formal group.”
Staples was arrested after two illegal excavations at Thurnham Castle near Maidstone and Richborough Roman Fort at Sandwich.

Ch Insp Harrison added: “This case highlights the strong partnership that Kent Police has developed with English Heritage and Kent County Council which seeks to prevent this form of criminal behaviour and we will work to prosecute anyone caught with illegal finds.”

A total of 20 sites with 10 in Kent were visited by Staples and police warned anyone thinking of raiding the county’s rich historical sites that PC Andy Small was the first officer in the country specially trained to deal with heritage crimes.

He has now trained 40 people including special constables, KCC wardens, PCSOs and crown prosecutors in rural and environmental crime and a similar role was created by police in Wales based on his success.

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