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Published: Fri, 02 Feb 2018
What is the Short Title of this Act?
s 15 (1) – The Treasure Act 1996
What is the Long Title of this Act?
An Act to abolish treasure trove and to make fresh provision in relation to treasure.
On what date did this Act receive Royal Assent?
The Act received the Royal assent on 4th July 1996, as stated in square brackets.
Did this Act come into force on receiving the Royal Assent?
No it did not. Under s 15 (2) the Secretary of State is empowered with the decision to decide on the date on which the act is to come into force. ‘ This Act comes into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint; and different days may be appointed for different purposes.’
What is meant by the term ‘Lords Spiritual’?
The term ‘Lords Spiritual’ refers to a group of 26 Anglican Bishops of the major diocese.
They are spiritual peers that sit in the House of Lords and are able to vote.
Thus, the Treasure Act of 1996 was made into law with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual.
Name four extrinsic aids of statutory interpretation.
The external aids that a court could use to aid in interpretation include:
The Interpretation Act of 1978
Treaties (inc, inter alia, ECHR; EU treaties)
a) What level of government minister may make an order designating a class of
object to be of outstanding historical importance?
s 2(1) – The Secretary of State for the purpose of s 1(1) (b) has the authority to
b) How should such an order be made?
s 2 (3) – An order can be made by a statutory instrument.
c) Which other authority has to approve an order designating a class of object to
be of outstanding historical importance? Give authority for your answer.
s 2 (4) states that this requires the approval of both the Houses of Parliament under the
affirmative resolution procedure.
d) Does this Act apply to Scotland?
Under s 15 (3) the Treasure Act of 1996 does not extend to Scotland.
When can an object which is not a coin and is not part of the same find as any other object be
defined as Treasure? Give authority for your answer.
Section 1 of the Treasure Act, under the ‘Meaning of treasure,’ provides several definitions as to what
objects may be considered as ‘treasure.’
s1 (1) (a)- Treasure is defined as any object that is at least three hundred years of age. Therefore, treasure
extends its scope beyond the traditional forms of treasure such as coins and jewellery. However, there is
an exception as s 1 (2) describes objects that are not held to be of treasure value. Further to this s 3 (6)
states that objects must be reasonably taken to be of a specific age, unless evidence suggests otherwise.
s 1 (1) (a) (i) – Any metallic object other than a coin that contains a minimum of ten percent by weight of
precious metal (gold or silver) and is at least three hundred years of age at the point of discovery.
s 3 (3)- Gives additional information in relation to section 1 of the act. ‘Precious metal’ is characterized as
gold or silver.
An object which is not classified as a coin and not part of the same find as any other object may also be
defined as ‘treasure’ in relation to s 2 (1). The Secretary of state for the purpose of s 1 (1) (b) has the
authority to assign as treasure, classes of objects that are at least two hundred years old, that may have a
exceptional historical, archaeological or cultural significance.
s 1 (1) (c) – Any object that would have previously been regarded as treasure trove if found before the
commencement of section 4.
s 2 (2)- The Secretary of State has the authority to modify the meaning of ‘treasure’, thus for the purpose
of s 1(2) the Secretary of State can ‘designate any class of object which (apart from order) would be
b) What is the definition of ‘coin’ under this Act? Give authority for your answer.
s 3 (2) defines the term ‘coin’ as any metal token that has been reasonably alleged to have been used or
intended for use as or a means of currency.
Who needs to approve and prepare the code of practice in relation to Treasure?
s 11 (1) (a) – The Secretary of State is charged with the responsibility of preparing the code of practice in relation to treasure and s 11 (1) (b) keeping it under review, s 11 (1) (c) revising it when appropriate.
s 11(4) states that subject to s 11 (3) (a) and s 11 (3) (b), the secretary of state must inform all bodies and give them the opportunity to participate in the review. These include not only those that actively search for or find treasure, but national museums, archaeologists, finds liaison officers and all those connected to the functions of treasure.
s 11 (5) – A copy of the code of practice and any planned revision will need to be placed before parliament.
s 11 (6) – Neither the code of practice nor any revision of the code may be enforced, unless approval has been sought by both members of the Houses of Parliament.
Is the Secretary of State obliged to prepare separate codes for Northern Ireland, Wales and
Under s 11 (7) the Secretary of State must publish the code in a manner in which he believes will draw the attention of those interested parties.
s 11(8) – The Secretary of State may wish to prepare separate codes for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland if he feels that it is appropriate although he is not obliged to. The decision lies with him as a matter of choice.
What must the Secretary of State do each year on the anniversary of the commencement of this Act?
Under s 12 of the act, the Secretary of State is under a statutory obligation to produce an annual report to parliament on the operation of the act. The report includes a record of all cases of treasure, the archaeological context of treasure, objects that may not be regarded as treasure, and the treasure procedure itself. More importantly, those that have been disclaimed by the secretary of state. This report must be produced when it is reasonably feasible to do so, soon after the anniversary of the commencement of the act
Tamsin Small is an amateur historian who has found a number of objects. She seeks your advice
regarding whether they could be deemed to be treasure. She found a wooden box containing 25
silver coins and 56 pieces of hack silver, along with 8 small pieces of rock containing gold mineral
deposits. Hack silver is made from pieces of scrap silver which is melted, allowed to cool then
broken into pieces with a hammer. The box also contained ten coins which, on
closer inspection, appear to be forgeries made from a copper and tin amalgam. Tamsin is
reasonably confident that the objects date from 1450. In addition, just prior to finding the box,
Tamsin had found three other coins about half a mile from the box which were very similar to the
forged coins found inside the box.
a) Are the objects treasure?
Twenty five silver coins-
s 1 (1) (a)- Tamsin argues that she is ‘reasonably confident’ that the silver coins date from 1450, which
mean they would effectively be 560 years old. These would need to be verified, and if found to be true,
than it would constitute treasure as ‘the object needs to be at least three hundred years old when found’
and thus on this basis if found to be true, it would fullfill the first specification of the meaning of treasure.
s 3 (6) – Although under this sub- section Tamsin states that she is ‘reasonably confident’, and therefore if
it is reasonably taken to be a particular age (560 years old), and presumed to do so in her case, then it
should be unless otherwise. Moreover, it states that she is an ‘amateur historian’ and therefore, there is a
possibility of doubt.
s 1 (1) (a) (ii)- There are more than two coins in the same find (twenty-five in this case) and are silver by
weight of precious metal, according to s 3 (3).
s 3 (2)- Assuming that the silver coins were used or intended for use as currency, then this condition is
The coins were all part of the same find. s 3 (4) (a-c) states;
(4) When an object is found, it is part of the same find as another object if—
(a) they are found together,
(b) the other object was found earlier in the same place where they had
been left together,
(c) the other object was found earlier in a different place, but they had
been left together and had become separated before being found.
Thus, the twenty- five silver coins satisfy all the above requirements and can be classed as ‘treasure.’
56 pieces of hack silver-
s 1 (1) (a)- Again if they originate from 1450, hence 560 years of age, they would meet the first criteria of
treasure. However, this would still need to be confirmed as Tamsin is an amateur historian.
s 1 (a) (i) – The hack silver is not a coin, but does have a metallic content of which ten per cent is of a
precious metal, i.e silver in this case. Therefore, this criteria for treasure is satisfied.
s 3 (3)- precious metal here refers to silver.
s 2 (1) – Hack silver is fragments of silver items such as jewellery that were used as bullion, or melted
and salvaged, particularly in the Viking period as a form of currency by weight.
Thus, the Secretary of State could as a result of s 1 (1) (b) consider it to be of an ‘outstanding
historical or archaeological importance.’ Although the actual quality of it and the hack silver itself will
need to be carefully examined if this is the case.
s 3 (4) (a)- Moreover, the hack silver is part of the same find as the twenty-five silver coins as they were unearthed together. Therefore, by meeting this criterion and the above, the hack silver can be regarded as treasure.
Eight small pieces of rock containing gold mineral deposits –
s 1 (2) (a) – ‘treasure does not include objects which are unworked natural objects’, thus rocks are not
regarded as treasure.
s 1 (2) (b)- This sub-section argues that treasure does not include objects which are ‘minerals as extracted
from a natural deposit’. However, the minerals (gold) have not been extracted from the rock (natural
deposit) and are inherent within. There is also nothing within the statue to suggest that because the rocks
contain gold mineral deposits then this would be of some relevance to the concept of treasure.
s 1 (1) (d) (i) – Although the actual eight small pieces of rock containing gold mineral deposits would
not constitute ‘treasure’, nonetheless they were found together along with the hack silver, and twenty-five
silver coins, and this itself would fulfil one if not many of the criterions of what can effectively be
defined as treasure.
s 1 (1) (a) (iii)- The ten coins are more than three hundred years old, and there are at least ten coins
within the same find. Thus, even though Tamsin may have reason to believe that they are perhaps
counterfeits, on this basis they can be considered as treasure.
Three other coins about half a mile from the box which were very similar to the
forged coins found inside the box-
s 1 (1) (a)- The three coins are presumed to be of at least three hundred years old.
s 1 (1) (d) (i)- These three coins under this section can be classed as treasure as they are part of the same
find as an object within (a) (b) or (c) and discovered at the similar time, or earlier on.
s 3 (4) (c)- Similar coins found inside the box (ten other forged coins) were discovered in a different
location however, these three coins had become separated when found.
s 3 (5)- The three coins which bears a resemblance to the ten forged coins found inside the box about half
a mile away can be presumed to have all been together before the point of discovery due to the proximity in
which they were found.
Therefore, these three coins can be deemed as ‘treasure,’
If any of the above objects are deemed to be treasure who owns them?
s 4 (1) (a-b)- Once the objects have been classified as treasure subject to prior interests and rights, treasure belongs to a franchise (if there is one), if not, then the object which rests within the statutory definition of treasure belongs to the crown.
s 6 (3)- However, the secretary of State has the power to disclaim the crowns title to objects that have
been reported as potential treasure.
c) How would your answer to b) differ if, having advertised the find in the local
press, Jim claims that the objects were stolen from his car three years ago?
d) How would your answer to a) differ if Tamsin presented a newspaper report of a statement by the secretary of state declaring that silver objects of less than 700 years old will not be deemed treasure?
s 11 (6)- Even if Tamsin did present a newspaper article stating that the silver objects are not considered to be of any treasure value, her report alone by the Secretary of State is not sufficient enough to go on. Any planned revision to the treasure code and practice must be approved by both houses of Parliament, as this is the authority that is needed. Hence, a report made by the Secretary of State would not be enough to constitute a change in the definition of treasure.
On the other hand if approval was sought by the both houses of Parliament, the 25 silver coins would not be deemed treasure as they are less than 700 years old. Nonetheless, s 1(1) (d) (i)- the 25 silver coins, the 10 silver coins and the remaining objects can all still be regarded as treasure as they are part of the same find.
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