some default text...
Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 60

Memorandum submitted by the Council for the Prevention of Art Theft

1.  THE PURPOSE OF THE COUNCIL

  The Council for the Prevention of Art Theft was established in 1992 to promote crime prevention in the fields of art, antiques, antiquities and architecture. Working through specialist sub-committees, the Council identifies, initiates and promotes measures aimed at protecting the cultural heritage from theft, damage or destruction by criminal activity.

  CoPAT is a registered Charity No. 1071753. In accepting CoPAT's request for charitable status, the Charity Commissioners agreed that its work is "undoubtedly of public benefit" and pointed, in particular, to the way in which the organisation's activities assist "the efficiency of the police," "promote good citizenship," and assist "crime prevention in regard to heritage items."

  CoPAT is entirely independent of any interest group or group of interest. The members of the organisation's specialist committees bring with them the knowledge and experience they have gained through working in their various communities, but in their work for CoPAT they are expected to act in its best interests and be objective in their approach to the issues it addresses.

2.  ACTIVITIES

  The activities of the Council include the following:

    —  Research into aspects of crime detection and prevention in the heritage field;

    —  Promotion of the Council's codes of due diligence for auctioneers and art dealers at a national and international level (see 3.2);

    —  Dissemination of the Council's Crime Intelligence Digest (3.4 and 3.5); and

    —  Promotion of crime prevention initiatives, including Object ID: the international standard for identifying art, antiques and antiquities (3.6).

3.  ACHIEVEMENTS

  Since its creation in 1992 CoPAT has achieved the following:

3.1  Abolition of "Market Overt"

  In 1995 CoPAT was instrumental in the abolition of market overt, a medieval law that enabled a buyer to obtain good title to a stolen object by purchasing it in certain street markets, such as the one at Bermondsey. A Private Members' Bill was introduced in the 1994 Parliamentary Session and resulted in the Sale of Goods (Amendment) Act 1994, which abolished market overt from 3 January 1995.

3.2  The CoPAT Codes of Due Diligence

  In 1995 the Council began a collaborative project to establish the principle of due diligence in all transactions by UK art and antique dealers and auctioneers by providing them with voluntary codes of conduct. The two codes were launched at the Museums and Galleries Commission, London on 2 March 1999 by Paul Boateng MP, Minister of State at the Home Office. Welcoming the codes on behalf of the British Government, Mr Boateng stated that they represented "a significant new initiative to tackle this area of crime and, as such, deserve our support."

  The codes of "due diligence" have been developed by the Council in partnership with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Norfolk Constabulary, and the Metropolitan Police Service, with the wider co-operation of dealers, auctioneers, private collectors, lawyers, police officers, Customs and Excise and other government departments. Finalised in October 1998, they have already been adopted by, amongst others, the British Antique Dealers Association, the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers, the RoyalInstitution of Chartered Surveyors, Society of Fine Art Auctioneers, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, the Library Association, and the Rare Books Group. The codes are also strongly supported by key heritage bodies, including English Heritage, the Museums and Galleries Commission, the National Trust (England and Scotland), and the Historic Houses Association.

  The Council's codes are also attracting attention at an international level. The law-enforcement agencies of a number of countries have expressed interest in the codes and meetings to discuss them have already been held in the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland. They were also discussed at the Second International Conference on Illicit Traffic in Works of Art stolen in Central and Eastern Europe (Budapest, 9-11 June 1998), where they were the subject of a resolution.

3.3  "Due Diligence" Police Liaison Officers

  A major outcome of the development of the codes of due diligence has been the appointment of "due diligence officers" in every police force in England and Wales. These officers are responsible for liaison with the art trade and with other police intelligence and investigative resources at local, national and international levels. The Council is currently working with the police to develop training programmes for these officers.

3.4  Crime Intelligence Digest

  In January 1998 CoPAT first published the Crime and Intelligence Digest (CCID) to circulate information about thefts of art and antiques from museums, heritage properties, churches and private houses. CCID is circulated to heritage custodians and police officers in Force Crime Intelligence Units throughout the country.

  Each bulletin contains details of the time and place of incidents, the modus operandi used, brief descriptions of any objects taken, and details of people and vehicles sighted.

3.5  Art Crime Intelligence Database

  Art and antique crime is generally undertaken by criminals who are prepared to travel great distances (over 100 miles) to steal from their victims. Police officers who are prepared to carry out investigations following a theft have no national database to link the crime with similar incidents in their own force area and other parts of the country.

  To meet this need CoPAT has developed a confidential Art Crime Intelligence Database (ACID), which will record and disseminate information about thefts and attempted thefts of art and antiques, criminal damage, and suspicious persons and activities. This database will:

    —  provide details of specific incidents;

    —  create statistics on crimes involving arts and antiques;

    —  determine trends in modus operandi, and types of objects stolen; and

    —  assist those responsible for the security of collections by providing information that will enable them to better protect the objects in their care.

3.6  Object ID

  In addition to these major initiatives, CoPAT encourages crime prevention measures such as the use of security systems, object marking, and is the home of Object ID—the international standard for describing art, antiques, and antiquities.

  Around the world there is growing, broad-based support for Object ID, and the standard has already been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Russian and Spanish.

  At the international level UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property has endorsed Object ID "as the international standard for recording minimal data on movable cultural property." Similarly, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has adopted a resolutionstating that "A museum should be able to generate from its collection information system such data (preferably according to the `Object ID' standard) that can identify an object in case of theft or looting."

  The law enforcement community continues to give its backing to the project. At the international level, Interpol is to include the Object ID checklist—together with an explanatory text—on a forthcoming CD-ROM of stolen art. In the USA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has adopted Object ID for the National Stolen Art File database, while in the UK, a number of police forces, including the Metropolitan Police Service are using Object ID in crime prevention campaigns.

  A number of insurance companies in Europe and North America continue to promote the use of the standard, including AXA Nordstern Art Insurance, Hiscox plc, Chubb & Son, General Reinsurance Corporation, Mannheim Insurance, and Swiss Re.

  In the UK, Object ID has been endorsed by DCMS; is supported by RICS, LAPADA and BADA; and is used by a number of police forces, the Art Loss Register, and Trace.

3.7  The Internet

  CoPAT is convinced of the importance of the Internet to the fight against art crime. In recent months it has established two web sites. The first of these sites—www.copat.co.uk—provides background information on the organisation, and details of CoPAT activities, and news items. The second site—www.object-id.com—is the official website of the Object ID project and explains why Object ID is needed, how it was developed, and who is using it.

4.  RECOMMENDATIONS

  CoPAT submits the following recommendations for consideration by the Committee:

4.1  Home Office Category for "Art and Antiques"

  Because the theft of "Art and Antiques" is not at present a reportable category of crime, it is not possible to quantify the number of objects stolen every year or assess their monetary value. In the absence of reliable statistics, the size of the problem tends to be stated by providing examples (eg major works of art stolen, the number of parish churches from which objects have been stolen etc) or by extrapolating figures from domestic insurance claims.

  It would greatly assist the fight against art theft and the illicit trade of art and antiques if art and antiques were designated a reportable category of crime, in the same way that car theft is. The category should include art, antiques, antiquities, architectural works, jewellery, silver, and "collectibles", and would cover thefts from museums, historic properties, religious buildings, commercial premises, private houses, and archaeological sites. The majority of western European countries—not to mention international organisations such as Interpol—treat art and antiques crime as a category, CoPAT believes that the UK should adopt this practice.

4.2  National Art Squad

  The investigation of art crime in the UK, and the co-operation with law-enforcement agencies in other countries on art theft related matters, are impeded by the lack of a National Art and Antique Squad. CoPAT believes that a national squad with its own computerised database, should be established as the essential precondition to the development of effective, intelligence led policing in this sector. Such squads currently exist in the majority of Western countries, including the USA (National Stolen Art File), Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and The Netherlands.

4.3  "Due Diligence" Police Liaison Officers

  In the absence of a National Art and Antique Squad, CoPAT has worked with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to ensure that every police force in the country has a "due diligence officer" (3.3). These officers are responsible for liaison with the art trade and with other police intelligence and investigative resources at local, national, and international levels.

  This initiative was launched over 12 months ago by Paul Boateng MP but a recent survey carried out by CoPAT shows that the majority of forces are not giving these officers the time, resources or training needed to equip them to perform the due diligence function in their force areas.

  If the scheme is to succeed, the Government must work with CoPAT to ensure the art and antiques liaison role of these officers is understood, and that resources are allocated to provide training that will enable them to carry out this role in an effective manner.

4.4  Promotion of the CoPAT codes of Due Diligence

  The CoPAT codes of due diligence were launched in March 1999 with the support of ACPO and the Home Office (3.2). Since then the principles of the codes have been enshrined in the Kent County Council Bill, and West Mercia Police's "We Don't Buy Crime" initiative. However, there is a need to increase awareness of the two codes among the trade, police, and judiciary at a national level. CoPAT would welcome the assistance of DCMS and the Home Office in promoting awareness of the codes in these sectors.

4.5  Crime Prevention

  CoPAT encourages crime prevention measures such as the use of security systems, object marking, and is the home of Object ID—the international standard for describing art, antiques and antiquities (3.6).

  DCMS endorsed Object ID in 1997, but has yet to draw the attention of museum and heritage bodies in England and Wales to the fact. Similarly, the use of Object ID has been recognised by NCIS and a number of police forces, but is not promoted by the Home Office. Object ID is an agreed international standard, but will only realise its potential for recovering stolen art and antiques if DCMS and the Home Office support and promote its adoption and use.

5.  ANNEXES

5.1  CoPAT Code of Due Diligence for Auctioneers

CODE OF DUE DILIGENCE FOR AUCTIONEERS TRADING IN FINE ART, ANTIQUES, ANTIQUARIAN BOOKS, MANUSCRIPTS AND COLLECTORS ITEMS

  In order to prevent the illicit trade in stolen art and antiques, CoPAT recommends that auctioneers endeavour to:

  1.  Request a vendor to provide their name and address and to sign a form identifying the item for sale and confirming that it is the unencumbered property of the vendor and that they are authorised to sell it, and this form will be dated.

  2.  Verify the identity and address of new vendors and record the details.

  3.  Be suspicious of any item whose asking price or requested reserve does not equate to its market value.

  4.  Pay particular attention to late sale entries.

  5.  If there is reason to believe an item may be stolen:

    (a)  Attempt to retain the item while enquiries are made.

    (b)  Contact the officer with responsibility for art and antiques within the local police force area, or, in an emergency dial 999.

    (c)  Check with relevant stolen property register(s).

    (d)  Pass to the police any information which may help to identify the person(s) in possession of such items.

    (e)  If still uncertain, refuse to buy, sell or value it.

  6.  Submit relevant catalogues to the appropriate stolen property register(s).

  7.  If requested, submit catalogues to the officer with responsibility for art and antiques within the local police force area.

  8.  Look critically at any instance when requested to pay cash and avoid doing so unless there is a strong and reputable reason to the contrary. In the absence of such a reason, pay by cheque or other method that provides an audit trail.

  9.  Send cheques by post.

  10.  Be aware of money laundering regulations.

  11.  Appoint a senior member of staff to whom employees can report suspicious activities.

  12.  Ensure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities in respect of the above.

  This code has been drawn up with the co-operation of:

    Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers;

    The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors;

    Antiquarian Booksellers Association;

    British Antique Dealers Association;

    Library Association;

    Rare Books Group.

5.2  CoPAT Code of Due Diligence of Dealers in Art and Antiques

CODE OF DUE DILIGENCE FOR DEALERS TRADING IN FINE ART, ANTIQUES, ANTIQUARIAN BOOKS, MANUSCRIPTS AND COLLECTORS ITEMS

  In order to prevent the illicit trade in stolen art and antiques, CoPAT recommends that dealers endeavour to:

  13.  Request a vendor to provide their name and address and to sign a form identifying the item for sale and confirming that it is the unencumbered property of the vendor and that they are authorised to sell it, and this form will be dated.

  14.  Verify the identity and address of new vendors and record the details.

  15.  Be suspicious of any item whose asking price does not equate to its market value.

  16.  If there is a reason to believe an item may be stolen:

    (f)  Attempt to retain the item while enquiries are made;

    (g)  Contact the officer with responsibility for art and antiques within the local police force area, or, in an emergency dial 999;

    (h)  Check with relevant stolen property register(s);

    (i)  Pass to the police any information which may help to identify the person(s) in possession of such items;

    (j)  If still uncertain, refuse to buy, sell or value it.

  17.  If requested, submit catalogues to the officer with responsibility for art and antiques within the local police force area.

  18.  Look critically at any instance when requested to pay cash and avoid doing so unless there is a strong and reputable reason to the contrary. In the absence of such a reason, pay by cheque or other method that provides an audit trail.

  19.  Be aware of money laundering regulations.

  20.  Appoint a senior member of staff to whom employees can report suspicious activities.

  21.  Ensure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities in respect of the above.

  This code has been drawn up with the co-operation of:

    Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers;

    The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors;

    Antiquarian Booksellers Association;

    British Antique Dealers Association;

    Library Association;

    Rare Books Group.

5.3  Object ID Checklist

Object ID Checklist

TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS

  Photographs are of vital importance in identifying and recovering stolen objects. In addition to overall views, take close-ups of inscriptions, markings, and any damage and repairs. If possible, include a scale or object of known size in the image.

ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS

TYPE OF OBJECT

  What type of object is it (eg painting, sculpture, clock, mask)?

Materials and Techniques

  What materials is the object made of (eg brass, wood, oil on canvas)? How was it made (eg carved, cast, etched)?

Measurements

  What is the size and/or weight of the object? Specify which unit of measurement is being used (eg cm., in.) and to which dimension the measurement refers (eg height, width, depth).

Inscriptions and Markings

  Are there any identifying markings, numbers or inscriptions on the object (eg, a signature, dedication, title, maker's marks, purity marks, property marks)?

Distinguishing Features

  Does the object have any physical characteristics that could help to identify it (eg damage, repairs, or manufacturing defects)?

Title

  Does the object have a title by which it is known and might be identified (eg, The Scream)?

Subject

  What is pictured or represented (eg landscape, battle, woman holding child)?

Date or Period

  When was the object made (eg, 1893, early 17th century, Late Bronze Age)?

Maker

  Do you know who made the object? This may be the name of a known individual (eg Thomas Tompion), a company (eg Tiffany), or cultural group (eg, Hopi).

WRITE A SHORT DESCRIPTION

  This can also include any additional information which helps to identify the object (eg, colour and shape of the object, where it was made).

KEEP IT SECURE

  Having documented the object, keep this information in a safe place.

5.4  Contributors to this Evidence

  CoPAT would like to thank the National Trust and Historic Royal Palaces for contributing to this submission.

5.5  Supporters of CoPAT

  The following supporters assist CoPAT in its important work:

    —  All Churches Trust;

    —  Antiques Trade Gazette;

    —  AXA Nordstern Art Insurance;

    —  English Heritage;

    —  Euclidian Underwriting;

    —  J Paul Getty Trust;

    —  J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust;

    —  Hiscox plc;

    —  Historic Houses Association;

    —  Historic Royal Palaces;

    —  Sir Thomas Ingilby;

    —  LAPADA;

    —  Museums and Galleries Commission;

    —  Museum of London;

    —  National Trust;

    —  National Trust for Scotland;

    —  Samuel Storey Family Charitable Trust;

    —  Thesaurus Group.

June 2000


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 25 July 2000