Crime proceeds hearings will take place in 2024 for two metal detector enthusiasts jailed earlier this year for trying to arrange the illegal sale of rare Anglo-Saxon coins.

Craig Best, now 47, of South View, Bishop Auckland, and his 75-year-old co-accused, Roger Pilling, from Rossendale, in Lancashire, were each sentenced to 62-month (five years and two months) terms of imprisonment at Durham Crown Court, in May.

Following a trial of more than a fortnight’s duration, in April, both were convicted of conspiracy to convert criminal property, by arranging the attempted sale of the coins, on a 10-2 majority jury verdict, and unanimously for possessing criminal property.

Judge James Adkin said they were convicted on “abundant evidence”, against them, and told them had they succeeded in selling the coins on the black market, the effect would have been to, “significantly dilute the nation’s historical heritage”.

The Northern Echo: Craig Best and Roger Pilling at Royal County Hotel, Durham

Sentencing them, on Thursday May 4, Judge Adkin said he was sure the coins were from a larger hoard, unearthed in Herefordshire, in 2015, which was the subject of a previous trial that resulted in two other metal detectorists being jailed for more than 18 years, at Worcester Crown Court, in 2019.

The jury in the Durham trial heard that Best and Pilling hoped to make potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds from the sale of up to 44 of the 9th Century-minted coins, which should have been declared to the authorities as, “national treasure”.

The Northern Echo:

They were caught after Best attended a pre-arranged meeting at The Royal County Hotel, in Durham, in May 2019, with a sample of three of the coins, believing he was meeting an expert who was to authenticate them on behalf of a potential buyer in the USA.

It was, in reality, an undercover operation jointly staged by officers from the North East Regional Organised Crime Unit and Durham Police.

During the "meeting" police intervened and seized the coins, before arresting Best, and going through the motions of supposedly detaining the “expert” and the “go-between”, who arranged the meeting.

The Northern Echo: Three Anglo-Saxon coins seized by police at the Royal County Hotel, Durham, in May 2019

In a simultaneous operation, police in Lancashire attended at Pilling’s home and recovered 41 more coins, arresting him on his subsequent return.

During their trial, the prosecution stated that being aware of other recoveries of rare coin hoards, both would have known that under the Treasury Act, of 1996, they should have declared the coins to the authorities as, “treasure”.

Both defendants claimed they were unaware they constituted “treasure” and said they were only trying to have them authenticated, rather than trying to sell them.

See more court stories from The Northern Echo by clicking here

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Jailing them, Judge Adkin put in place crime proceeds proceedings to see what assets or finances can, in due course, be confiscated from the defendants.

A hearing took place at the court earlier this month to set a timetable under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

It was agreed that the progress of the case should be mentioned at a further hearing at the court on April 12, when a final settlement hearing date will be confirmed.