IOD – the hidden agenda

Background

In December 2020, I published Institute of Detectorists – a cause for concern? The article detailed how the Association of Detectorists (AOD), led by Keith Westcott, is proposing to set up an Institute of Detectorists (IOD). Historic England gave the IOD £50,000 in July 2020 to fund a feasibility study. The National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD) were invited to participate on the Advisory Board of the IOD, but declined to do so.

I placed several polls in that article to gauge opinions from the detecting community and will provide the results of those in this update. Also in this update are the results of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Historic England. These reveal the hidden agenda and strategy for the IOD. It’s how Keith Westcott plans to seize control of the hobby of metal detecting.

Poll results

There were some 250 submissions made for the four polls in my first article. Here are the results:

Q1. Should the NCMD participate on the Advisory Board of the IOD?

Q2. Is the AOD a competent body to set up an Institute of Detectorists?

Q3. Could the IOD be used as a vehicle to restrict the hobby of metal detecting?

Q4. Is the IOD a cause for concern for the hobby metal detectorist?

Conclusion

The last three questions provided a clear view on where detectorists stand on the IOD. Given what I have unearthed since then, they were right to be concerned.

Less clear cut, although still 2 to 1 against, was whether the NCMD should participate. I presume those against participation are concerned that the NCMD’s participation could give the IOD undue credibility. They would certainly have been outnumbered by bodies with an archaeological interest.

Historic England frustrate Freedom of Information request

Initial Request

On 2 December 2020, I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Historic England. FOI requests should be responded to within four weeks, although most responses are quicker than that. Historic England said they would need six weeks to respond. They failed to respond within six weeks. When they eventually responded, it was incomplete and significantly redacted.

Review

I asked Historic England to conduct a formal review of their response. Once again this was returned late and incomplete. I complained to them that their review was incomplete, but they did not respond.

ICO Complaint

I have, therefore, lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who oversee FOI requests. Hopefully, this will lead to the release of all the requested information.

Transparency of award of public funds

My FOI request is regarding the issue of £50,000 of taxpayer’s money to the IOD. Among the information that Historic England are currently refusing to release is their internal procedures for processing the award of a grant. They will also not release who authorised the grant. I would expect bodies that give out public money not only to have robust procedures but be keen to demonstrate that they have them.

This lack of transparency contrasts markedly with the publicity they gave to the award of the grant.

IOD’s hidden agenda

Historic England have released some documents and emails. Although these are redacted and incomplete, they do provide a valuable insight into the true agenda of the IOD.

Project Design

To apply for the grant, the IOD were required to produce a Project Design. Historic England paid Keith Westcott £3,000 to write this.

Project Design – Final Version

The final version of the Project Design is available here: 7851 The Institute of Detectorists. It is written by Keith Westcott and Manda Forster and details the plans for the IOD.

When I read this Project Design it seemed professionally produced and most of what it contained seemed reasonable.

Project Design – Draft Versions

However, there appear to be a number of previous drafts of the Project Design. Historic England have repeatedly refused to release these to me.

These drafts were distributed to various third parties for their comments. It is by reading these comments that it becomes clear what Keith Westcott’s true intentions are and what he really thinks about detectorists.

Below, I have set out some of those comments and alongside, what this tells us. I have used a green background for quotes from third parties and a blue background for those from Keith Westcott.

I would say that there is an element of regulation and governance that should be recognised by the applicant; NCMD, Code of Practice, Treasure Act 1996, regular reporting by detectorists to PAS” – Heritage Crime, January 2020

Keith has said that detecting is an unregulated hobby. This is one of the main drivers for his perceived need for more regulation.

“Para 1.13 is basically saying that NCMD is not promoting responsible detecting; by funding this project is it been seen as Historic England supporting that view” – ALGAO, January 2020

This demonstrates Keith’s attitude to the NCMD and perhaps validates their decision not to take part.

It is also one of a number of warnings to Historic England about funding the IOD

With a local authority hat on, we are a very big landowner and all requests to detect on our farm estate are referred to myself; I can see a distinct benefit in having a robust accreditation scheme that I can use as a requirement for issuing consent– ALGAO, January 2020

This alludes to Keith’s strategy. By going direct to landowners he can implement his proposals, whether detectorists like them or not.

“the NCMD is a different but significant body in the detecting landscape, yet it is not included in the list of stakeholders.– CIFA, January 2020

Keith does not consider the NCMD, which is the main umbrella group for detectorists, to have any stake in the future regulation of detecting.

One of my concerns about Keith’s approach is that … he wants to be at the vanguard of this new organisation…this can’t be seen as the Westcott show if detectorists are to embrace the approachPAS, January 2020

As I’ll show later in this article, Keith has more plans to control detectorists. If the IOD prevails, one man, Keith Westcott will control the hobby of metal detecting.

I am not sure that I agree with Keith that many detectorists are interested in just the money. For example, I think many people might like to keep what they find but happy to record [with the PAS]” PAS, January 2020

Keith demonstrates his low regard for detectorists. Also, it is a little rich from someone who is happy to take taxpayer’s money, to pursue their interests, to belittle others gaining some money from detecting.

“I am not sure that I completely understand this, as I am not sure there is ever much contextual information lost given most detecting takes place in the plough-zonePAS, January 2020

There is a common, and in my view erroneous, argument from archaeologists that so much contextual information is lost, when objects are recovered from the plough-zone. It is one of the main arguments being pursued by Keith and the archaeologists that support him for the need for the IOD

“I think detectorists are more likely to oppose the IOD, as I am sure it will be seen as giving up on many of the liberties inherent within a liberal approach to metal-detecting”PAS, January 2020

An acknowledgement that detectorists will be giving up the liberties that they currently enjoy, if the IOD is allowed to proceed.

“Within the list of ambassadors are some people who organise rallies etc” PAS, January 2020

This chimes with a comment posted on my first article. Be careful who you listen to about the IOD. Some are seeing this as a money-making opportunity – your money. The list of ambassadors is available below.

“The risk of the detectorist community not accepting the Institute. I think this is very high” – National Trust, January 2020

A comment from many third parties.

“Can’t help thinking when reading that this reads like a faction splitting off the NCMD and we are being asked to take sides in a domestic dispute.” – National Trust, January 2020

A dispute where one sides gets public funds to pursue its aims and the other side is represented by a voluntary organisation.

“please reword to ensure it is clear that the project is not proposing a framework for new regulation”Historic England, January 20220

It demonstrates Keith’s hidden agenda. He intends new regulation but needs to remove it for now to secure funding.

“My key concerns are the business case, which effectively asserts that all MD is illegal” – Historic England, January 2020

This again demonstrates what Keith thinks about detectorists in general

“A number of commentators [said] that this initiative comes from a relatively narrow constituency”, “most of their comments really seemed to me to be querying the broad issue of metal detecting and HE’s relationship to it – and whether HE should fund this at all” Historic England, January 2020

Even though Historic England are repeatedly warned that the IOD is supported by a narrow sector and that there is a high risk of detectorists not accepting it, they still decide to grant £50,000 of taxpayer’s money to Keith.

It is clear from these comments that significant changes were made to the Project Design. It appears that this was only done to enable funding to be secured.

Absence of comments from the Detecting Community

In the information released to me by Historic England, it appears that there have been no comments sought from or obtained from the detecting community.

What is the £50,000 being spent on?

It is clearly of significant public interest how £50,000 of taxpayer money will be spent. Historic England have redacted the finance section of the Project Design, claiming it is commercially sensitive.

Indeed at a higher rate than her CEO is charged out to other current HE projects – great though I think [redacted] is, does this feel rather high?relayed by Drakon Heritage, 30 Janaury 2020

It would appear that a lot of the money is going to the two authors. Another email reveals that Keith charged £300 per day to write the Project Design. It is reasonable to assume that he is charging at least that now. It would appear that Manda Foster, his co-author, is charging more than that.

Project Ambassadors

A number of detecting publications, rally organisers and equipment suppliers were either ambassadors to the IOD or sat on the advisory board of the AOD. Several of these have now publicly distanced themselves from the IOD and AOD. In particular, I have been informed that The Searcher and its editor now has nothing to do with the IOD, and have made a public statement to that effect.

Other emails

Other emails either from Keith or third parties to Historic England provide further evidence of Keith’s agenda and strategy.

Ignore the detecting community and go direct to landowners

“Ultimately, we will look for the support of landowners to adopt the stance of archaeologists in requiring detectorists to follow a new ‘code of conduct’ before being allowed on their lands. The code will be more aligned to Historic England’s ‘Our portable past’ than the current ‘light touch’ code of practice and resulting in a form of regulation – Keith Westcott, 21 September 2018

Although a number of parties have highlighted to Keith that the risk of the detecting community not accepting the IOD is high, this is of no real concern to him. His strategy is to target the landowners. If you have read my first article, you will recall that Historic England was indirectly using the access to agricultural grants to unilaterally impose regulation on detecting.

Detectorists shouldn’t own their finds

“The perceived ownership of finds and the rights of the finder is of great concern. As we know, unlike archaeologists, detectorists in protecting their ‘current freedoms’, usually results in the find being kept for personal gain. IOD looks to develop a different and more ethical approach to finds ownership, based on a custodianship.” – Keith Westcott, 2 October 2018

Keith reveals his thinking that finds shouldn’t belong to the detectorist. Instead, his idea is for a National Collection.

“What is more problematic, and is not fully defined, is the National Collection idea. Are they really saying they would become the repository for artefacts?” – National Trust, 24 October 2018

Funding avoids the need for consensus

“Crucially, funding would allow us to promote an ethical approach rather than the popular approach. For example, the PAS scheme relies on treading a careful path which cannot be seen to change existing freedoms or derogate existing practices, this would result in a backlash, alienating the scheme from the majority. – Keith Westcott, 2 October 2018

Keith needs funding so that he does not need to seek consensus for his proposals. It allows him to proceed without needing to get the support of the detecting community.

Regulation to suit archaeologists rather than detectorists

our hands are not tied as per the PAS, allowing the proposed Institute to develop standards and practices that conform to archaeologist requirements rather than a diluted message to suit the detectorists.– Keith Westcott, 2 October 2018

The envisaged regulation is not seeking a middle ground, to the benefit of all. Rather it will be framed solely to needs of archaeologists.

The use of the phrase ‘the detectorists’ highlights that Keith sees this as an “us” and “them” situation and it is clear which side he is on.

Appearing to be a detectorist

“I realise that Mr Westcott wants the IOD to be set up by detectorist…so to reduce the resistance probable if archaeologists are seen to be behind the idea.”National Trust, 24 October 2018

As shown above, Keith’s allegiances are with archaeology. However, Keith wants to give the appearance of being a detectorist.

No Passport – No Detecting!

I have been in contact with of the DCMS, in view of presenting a range of initiatives …One proposal is a possible IoD ‘Detectorists Passport’ gained on joining the Institute, which would be a voluntary form of Licence. I have discussed the idea with the National Farmers Union, as it would provide a great opportunity to influence the practices of detectorists from within the interest and through the targeted support of farmers and landowners. …. This empowers the landowners who are often approached by anonymous members of the public…No Passport, no detecting!Keith Westcott, 11 February 2019.

Preliminary thoughts on costings, are based on the fundamental principle of assisted funding for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, from within the interest. For a monthly subscription ”  Keith Westcott, 11 February 2019.

The grand plan is revealed; how you will have to pay a monthly subscription to Keith to go detecting as you will need a IOD “Detectorists Passport”.

Conclusion

Keith is keen to appear to be a detectorist, who is on the side of detectorists in general. However, his comments indicate the disdain in which he holds the detecting community, the NCMD and even the PAS system. His strategy is not to engage with detectorists. Instead, he will circumvent them by going to the land owners. Also, he doesn’t need the support of the detecting community, as Historic England will provide him with funding. Under his vision for detecting, you will pay him for the privilege of going out detecting, via his Passport scheme. And what you find will become part of his National Collection.

What to do about it

NCMD

If you are concerned about the IOD and you are not already a member of the NCMD then consider joining them at www.ncmd.co.uk.

Threats

I am aware that threats of violence have been posted online and sent to Keith Westcott and other parties associated with the IOD and AOD. Criticism is fine but threats are quite clearly not.

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John Howland
John Howland
1 month ago

All of the data regarding English Heritage’s lack of responses, particularly where it seems reluctant to supply information about the £50k grant, ought to be put in the hands of a Member of Parliament.

That Westcott charged £300 for his services, from whom did he receive the money and why? Was he, or is he, a puppet whose strings are pulled either by fanatics in the archaeological circus, or by a well connected archaeological body? We must be told.

Collecting coins and relics is wholesome and legal. That a gobby minority think otherwise is well, hard luck for them.

Thomas mcneill
Thomas mcneill
1 month ago

T

Steven Hewitt
Steven Hewitt
1 month ago

How dose this idiot propose to police his grubby little scheme, will clubs have to submit to him where they will be detecting so he can come along and get us to all turn out our pockets! I have been a detectorist for 25 years and the current arrangement of declaring our finds to be recorded works well for most, and as a result some fantastic items are on display all around the country for everyone to see. If this clown gets his way most of us will try something else and detecting will die.

Richard Brown
Richard Brown
1 month ago

I started Metal Detecting last year and love this hobby. It is my belief that NCMD are the best body to represent us, they promote responsible detecting, look after the interests of detectorists at government level and advise us accordingly, they also cultivate the partnership between detectorist and archaeologists through the PAS and Treasure Act. What we don’t need is some new self serving Institute taking over, changing the goal posts and charging us for the privelidge.

Kevin
Kevin
1 month ago

Have archaeologist thought about this.Take away all metal detectors. Make it illegal to own one even ban them from useing them so even archaeologist can’t use them .Now what would happen I’ll tell you what will happen 1 all manufacturing will be hit loss of jobs .2 shops will go out of business more loss of jobs. 3 how will archaeologist know where to look for artefacts. 4. How many of you archaeologists will lose your jobs. Because with all the research in the world there are thousands of places you will never find why because their are loads of areas that have no recorded history. Look back over the years our hobby has brought sites to your attention you knew and probably would never know existed. We help keep you lot in work .We buy our own equipment we use our own free time it don’t cost you lot anything not a penny for us to do that .We don’t get an hourly wage .Most detectorists go years with out finding any thing of value . You lot get paid every day .We do it as an hobby we dig and find the finds that need finding .Most of what’s in the ground now might not be their in a few more years time .You have a free army of detectorists who go out in fields where their is no recall of any history and find what you can not .I think you all should get off your high horse’s and help block Keith Westcott’s plans before you lot start losing your jobs .And many other people too. Westcott has found a way well he thinks he has found a way to make him self a load of free cash by fleecing the detectorists and taxpayers. His plan will not work .Because none of us will pay him .Most of us pay the farmers to do our hobby and it’s up to the farmers who they let on their land not Westcott. So Westcott do one with your money grabbing hands your a con man nothing but.Just to line your own pockets at the cost of others that’s what you are a con artist

Malcolm Foster
Malcolm Foster
1 month ago
Reply to  Kevin

A lot will not be possible to find in future years. Every time I travelled to our caravan on the Fylde in recent years (when we were allowed) and seeing the masses of green belt land being used for new housing, I struck me how much history may be being lost. I bet there is no search for artefacts before-hand. That should be a planning requirement. Such a site here in East Lancs has been earmarked for building on for years, yet undeveloped, but the house building company refused my request to search it. Maybe worried something significant turns up and causes them problems.

D Walton
D Walton
1 month ago

It would appear anything this ‘gentleman’ (KW) delves into turns to poop scoop material, many failed ventures, just looks like a nice little retirement quango, at taxpayers expense, i would assume someone in HE is trying to cover his/her tracks now(nice work Peter), only time will tell. can we have our £50000 pounds back to be used for something more useful for everyone? thanks

SteveC
SteveC
1 month ago

Yes you are correct that some parties have tried to denigrate those who are not convinced of the aims of the IoD. A long time friend in the hobby business sector, gave me the cold shoulder at the last Detectival event because i was not supportive of the IoD so i can identify with you comments.

The commercial parties who have given their support to the venture have probably done so out of the need to be able to gain financial advantage over those who have not. They all need to make money from their business ventures and so cannot afford to be on the outside in case a money making opportunity is missed.

As a result i will be selective in future from whom i will buy a detector from and whose magazine i will continue to subscribe to. Sadly that is probably playing into one of the methods the IoD are seeking to use to split the hobby. My support remains firmly with the measured response taken by the NCMD on the IoD.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
1 month ago

On a number of occasions I have posted about the danger IOD present to us metal detectorists, and have been called a liar and a trouble maker and a certain editor, not from treasure hunting magazine I might add, tried to get me removed from the groups I commented on. He obviously has an interest in IOD with his boss having been a member of the TVC and now on the advisory board on IOD. Also some other detectorists who had at one time published a article against the IOD on Facebook then turned tail and also accused me of trouble making. The only reason I can see for this must either be taking a back hander from IOD or had been brain washed by the IOD. All I can say is, all involved with IOD should remember where the money comes from because if IOD succeed metal detector sales will take a serious hit and ultimately affect the sustainability of their business. Yours Mike Smith

Mark Vine
Mark Vine
1 month ago

Speaking as an ex field archaeologist myself, I find Wescott’s plans abhorrent. He is a liar and a despot and anyone who can’t see this, must surely be stupid, or somewhere near the money trough being created by this awful man.
I have been a detectorist for 40 years, even when I was an archaeologist and to allow this man to curtail the freedoms and rights of the people inside the hobby, will only ever end one way.

M Arnold
M Arnold
2 months ago

Why are pa’s officers pushing out forms to be filled in by detectorists and not asking ncmd or fid to review or reply to this form it seems to me they are bypassing the ncmd and fid to get what they want it’s a bit converting why don’t ncmd ask for an enquiry to gov why public funds are being used without full transparency

David Bowyer
David Bowyer
2 months ago

Who put this guy at the top of the pile. Just a money making scam .

Jean Brenda Orme
Jean Brenda Orme
2 months ago

Who is this man to tell me l need a passport to go detecting.
The NCMD are to only organisation who have the detectorists interests at heart. Not him. He is only going to take detecting underground sorry for the pun.
No way am l going to get a passport to pursue my hobby.

Malcolm Foster
Malcolm Foster
1 month ago

Probably would not get an MD passport unless you agree to a certain ‘inoculation’ (you might pass something nasty on to someone whilst out on your own, in the middle of the countryside, miles from anyone) so that would certainly exclude me.

Bob sibley
Bob sibley
2 months ago

Does anybody else think this guy is right up himself

Steve C
Steve C
2 months ago

The I o D , A o D or whatever name he has used, has produced a great deal of debate on the various social media sites and detecting forums. It is clearly an issue with the detecting community and the background of the owner of the Commnunity Interest Company ( CIC ) that Mr Westcott set up to be the vehicle to run the proposed Institute needs to be read by many. A simple google search will reveal much information. Companies House holds the details of the many companies he owns or has set up with others details of others. There are many entries and some use his middle name as well so also use Keith Mark Westcott in your Goggle search.

The last time i looked there were 12 companies he is involved with some active and some dissolved.

Everyone should be aware that under the terms of a CIC it is not to be run as as a profit generator and Mr .Westcott goes to great pains to state that his company is a not for profit one. However few people can exist without an income and a CIC allows the Managing Director and others to claim a market rate salary for the work that they would be doing on behalf of the proposed Institute and be able to appoint others as specialists who can also claim a market rate salary.

A little bit of research reveals much. Enjoy your search.

Kevin
Kevin
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve C

He’s just a con man mate .If this ever goes a head .Then detector companies and shops a like will go out of business .These companies and shops need to back us detectorists and stop this idiot

ian huish
ian huish
2 months ago

I would pack my kit away before paying monthly, this hobby get me motivated to get out and drive me through all my ailments , I TOTALY AGAINST THIS

Nick Kaye
Nick Kaye
2 months ago

This is great work and very informative. All detectorists need to read this article before committing to any association with the IoD.

Valerie Shearer
Valerie Shearer
2 months ago

https://www.transparency.org/en someone should run this by these guys..

Neilyboy
Neilyboy
2 months ago

How has this man been able to get into such a position of power? How has he managed to secure such a large grant, does he have friends in high places? It stinks like an old Kipper to me, I certainly won’t be joining his circus.

Andy McPherson
Andy McPherson
2 months ago

Have you considered creating a petition to show the level of dislike to this?
I can recommend https://www.change.org/ for creating free one 👍

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
2 months ago

We already have a hobby that is well represented by the NCMD and the voluntary PAS scheme. I have been detecting now for over 10 years since my retirement and have recorded over 2000 finds on the PAS database. These have all been rescued individually from the plough soil where all stratification has already been lost and further years of ploughing would have resulted in their total destruction. There is now a huge database of recorded finds which is a trove of information available to interested bodies all built on the efforts of a free resource, an army of detectorists determined to rescue finds from the soil. There is no need for a new body trying to add even further regulations to our great hobby especially one which appears to be a money grabbing opportunity at our expense. He will get no support from me!

Paul Berry
Paul Berry
1 month ago

Well said Andrew!

Douglas cunningham
Douglas cunningham
2 months ago

well said

Paul Smith
Paul Smith
2 months ago

Well i will not have anything to do with someone who is trying to take our hobby from us for his own gain.

I wont have a passport.
I wont be joining the iod.
I wont have nothing to do with keith

Troutmasterfunk
Troutmasterfunk
2 months ago

Looks like Keith is feathering his own nest let’s hope that as a large group we can stop him 👊

Darryl French
Darryl French
2 months ago

This guy Keith is obviously not hot a metal detectors interest at heart and is pure in it for self gain and by the looks of it to fill his own pockets and create a business for himself, he should be held to account, for shambles and ncmd should be consulted through a poll tk it’s members hence receiving real data from real detectorist.

W. Mclay
W. Mclay
2 months ago

If it wasnt for the NCMD, the PAS, the Detectorists and the general public then there would be a lot less finds and artifacts in Brittish museams, not everything is found by Achaeologists. Nothing needs to be changed….

Paul
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  W. Mclay

To back up your point about most finds being made by detectorists; last week we published PAS: Top 10 Finds – Detecting Finds . All but one of these finds were made by detectorists (the other by a mudlarker) and all are on public display or at the British Museum. Plus, in 2018, 96% of treasure finds were found by detectorists.

Last edited 2 months ago by Paul
john mathewson
john mathewson
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

with referance to this this person it could be said…….those who shout loudest usualy have most to hide lets find it and sink him for good