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Written Statement - Proposed amendments to the criminal offences and defences in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport

In last year’s consultation, The future of our past, we sought views on proposals for improving the protection and sustainable management of the historic environment of Wales. There was a positive response to the consultation with 177 formal responses received, reflecting both the importance of the historic environment to Wales and the fact that the planned Heritage Bill, which the consultation would inform, represents the first ever heritage legislation specifically for Wales.

Some consultees expressed concerns about the rarity of successful prosecutions under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.  Between 2006 and 2012, Cadw received reports of 119 cases of unlawful damage to scheduled ancient monuments in Wales.  However, there has been only one successful prosecution under the Act in Wales in the last 25 years. 

I accept these concerns and, as a result, further work has been undertaken to see whether amendments could be made to the Act in order to strengthen protection for scheduled ancient monuments.  

I am, therefore, pleased to announce a short consultation on a new proposal for changes to the criminal offences and defences in the Act.  At present those who damage or carry out unauthorised works to scheduled ancient monuments, or use metal detecting equipment on them often argue that they did not know that the ancient monument was scheduled.  Broadly speaking, the proposal is to change the offences and defences in the Act to place a greater responsibility on those persons to take reasonable steps to check whether a scheduled ancient monument would be affected by their actions.

The consultation document will be available on the Welsh Government website from Monday 3 March 2013 and run for 6 weeks until 14 April 2013.  A summary of consultation responses will be published soon afterwards.