A judge has given closing directions to the jury in the trial of two metal detectorists accused of trying to sell rare and valuable coins from an undeclared Viking hoard.

Craig Best, from Bishop Auckland, and Roger Pilling, from Lancashire, are alleged to have conspired together to try to illegally sell up to 44 Anglo-Saxon-minted 9th Century coins, worth an estimated £766,000, between 2018 and 2019.

The Northern Echo: A rare Anglo-Saxon coin found in a search at Roger Pilling's home

Durham Crown Court heard that the coins, thought to have been unearthed from a buried Viking plot, are considered to be part of an undeclared hoard discovered in a farm field in Leominster, Herefordshire, in 2015.

The court heard that two metal detectorists were jailed in 2019 for a total of 18 years for their role failing to declare their find and selling them to dealers.

Read more: US expert tells trial he thought Viking hoard coins on offer were fake

Two coin sellers were also convicted for failing to declare the coins, which are considered as ‘treasure’ by law.

At the time their case was about to go to court in Worcester, Best was said to be the “front man”, trying to arrange the sale of 44 similar coins, in Pilling’s possession, to collectors.

They were arrested after Best attended a meeting at Durham’s Royal County Hotel with a supposed expert, who was to authenticate them on behalf of a would be American collector.

The Northern Echo: Another coin said to be from an undeclared hoard, found at Roger Pilling's home

In reality, both the ‘expert’ and his assistant, present at the hotel, the broker of the meeting and the Amercian would-be buyer, were all undercover police officers.

Best, who had taken a sample of three coins to be validated, was arrested at the hotel and a simultaneous raid at Pilling’s home in Lancashire led to the remaining 41 coins also being recovered.

The pair both claim they were merely trying to check if the coins held by Pilling were genuine, and deny they were trying to sell them.

Best, 46, of South View, Bishop Auckland, and 75-year-old Pilling, of Loveclough, Rossendale, both deny conspiring to convert (sell) criminal property (the coins), plus one count each of possessing criminal property.

Read more: Jury told of Bishop Auckland man's bid to 'sell' Viking hoard coins

Following the conclusion of the Crown and defence cases, Judge James Adkin gave directions as to law to the jury.

The judge said it was agreed that, whether or not the coins were part of the uncovered Leominster Hoard, they were treasure, and to seek to sell them is a criminal offence.

Judge Adkin told jurors: “The prosecution has to prove each defendant intended to sell them and each defendant knew the coins were criminal property.

The Northern Echo: An Alfred the Great coin found at Roger Pilling's home, in Lancashire

“Knowing they were part of the Leominster Hoard, or any hoard, the prosecution say they should have known they were part of a hoard, a plan was hatched to sell them, and the plan is the criminality.

“In this case, it’s whether there was a plan.

“The prosecution say, given the contact between the defendants, what was said between them and their internet searches, you can infer that both defendants planned or intended to sell the coins.

“Both defendants said they did not know they were criminal property and they did not agree for any coins to be sold.

“The prosecution must prove Roger Pilling possessed criminal property.

“He admits possessing them, but the prosecution must prove he knew or suspected them to be criminal property.

“The prosecution must prove Craig Best knew or suspected these coins to be criminal property.”

Judge Adkin told the jury: “In this case re-count one (the conspiracy charge), either both of the defendants are guilty, or both are not guilty.

The Northern Echo: Rare coin seized from Craig Best at meeting at the Royal County Hotel in Durham

“The prosecution must prove they knew Roger Pilling’s ‘hoard’ was criminal property.

“They must prove they knew or suspected it was criminal property.

Read next:

Rare coin 'seller' unaware would-be buyer was undercover cop

Trial of Bishop Auckland man and co-accused in ancient coins case

Pair in court after Durham Police find £1m Viking coins

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“If you find them guilty of count one, you will, inevitably, find them guilty of counts two and three (the respective possessing criminal property counts), but the reverse is not the case.

“If they are found not guilty of count one, they can still be found guilty of counts two and three.”

Following the conclusion of the closing speeches of prosecution and defence counsel today (Tuesday April 25), Judge Adkin will tomorrow (Wednesday) sum up the evidence to the jury, which is expected to retire to consider its verdicts later in the day.