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Heritage Crime

Transportation plaque on a bridge
Picture of a plaque on a bridge in Dorset, which says that any person wilfully injuring any part of this county bridge will be guilty of felony and upon conviction liable to be transported for life. This could be done under the Malicious Injuries to Property Act 1827. People who damaged bridges could could also be flogged, and other offences carried the death penalty. This Act is no longer in force!

Heritage crime is any offence which harms the value of heritage assets and their settings. 

Heritage assets are sites which are considered to have value to our heritage. They include:

  • listed buildings
  • scheduled monuments
  • world Heritage Sites
  • protected marine wreck sites
  • conservation areas
  • registered parks and gardens
  • registered battlefields
  • protected military remains of aircraft and vessels of historic interest
  • undesignated but acknowledged historic buildings and sites

Some heritage assets are protected by specific legislation. Others may not be designated but are familiar features of our towns, villages and countryside much valued by local people; for example, metal railings and signs, village pumps, drinking troughs, and bollards. All can be vulnerable to heritage crime and anti-social behaviour such as:

  • theft of lead and other metals from churches and other historic buildings
  • architectural theft
  • illegal metal detecting
  • failure or delay in reporting finds of potential Treasure
  • unlawful alteration and damage to listed buildings
  • unlawful demolition of buildings and structures in Conservation Areas
  • damage to Scheduled Monuments
  • graffiti
  • damage by vehicles
  • trade in illicit cultural property

Other crimes such as theft, criminal damage, arson and anti-social behaviour can also affect heritage assets. 

In Dorset, Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team plays a central role in preventing and investigating heritage crime, and tackling heritage crime is covered by their Rural Crime Strategic Plan.  Heritage assets are recorded in the Dorset Historic Environment Record

For more information about how to report heritage crime and measures to reduce the amount of crime that damages or interferes with enjoyment of our historic environment, visit the Historic England website.

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