A DELIVERY driver from Grays used a metal detector to steal a gold Roman coin from a private estate in Norfolk.

Roy Wood, 52, of Lytton Road, appeared at Basildon Crown Court on Monday, September 29, and pleaded guilty to using sophisticated equipment to find a gold Roman coin at Castle Acre, Norfolk.

The coin originates from the period of the Emperor Valentinian, and was valued at £200.

This form of theft is sometimes referred to as 'nighthawking' and relates to unlawful metal-detecting on private property/land, protected archaeological sites or other areas of archaeological interest, in order to recover historic objects or other items of value.

It is performed where permission to survey and dig has been refused or never sought.

During sentencing His Honour, Judge Owen-Jones said the discovery of the coin was of 'archaeological and historical importance' and that would be taken into consideration along with the defendant's previous good character.

Wood was fined £400 and ordered to pay £250 costs.

In April 2013, officers were contacted by the British Museum reporting that Wood was suspected of being in possession of items that should be reported to the Coroner as required with within the Treasure Act 1996.

In May 2013 Essex Police working with experts from English Heritage executed a search warrant at Wood's home and found documentation implicating Wood in the theft and subsequent sale of two gold coins.

PC Andy Long, Wildlife & Heritage Crime Officer for Essex Police said: "We work closely with English Heritage, CPS and the National Council for Metal Detecting to ensure the criminal element of this lawful hobby are brought to justice and I urge anyone who has information about such activity to contact me either by phone or email."

Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Advisor for English Heritage, added: "The practice of illegal metal detecting and stealing historic objects and artefacts from the ground, a practice sometimes referred to as 'nighthawking' is an issue that English Heritage takes very seriously."

"Discoveries of individual artefacts can often by very informative about our common past.

“The presence of such a coin could be indicative of a previously unknown high status site, in the case of the Roman period perhaps a villa or temple, or provide evidence regarding the wealth of a settlement. That knowledge, in this case, has been lost."

"We recognise that the majority of the metal detecting community comply with the laws and regulations relating to the discovery and recovery of objects, however, we are prepared to work with the police to identify the criminal minority who operate outside of the law and to bring them to justice."

An allegation relating to the theft of a second gold coin was not taken forward and was asked to lie on file.