English Heritage has issued a warning that action will be taken against anyone illegally accessing, damaging or removing items from protected historic wrecks.
This follows the launch of the Alliance to Reduce Crimes Against Heritage (ARCH) in February with the support of over 40 organisations
English Heritage and the police are increasingly working together to safeguard wreck sites designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.
In recent weeks, the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) intercepted divers on the edge of the protected wreck site of the British warship, the Coronation, off Penlee Point, near Plymouth.
A number of items in their boat were then taken for analysis to determine if they had been taken from the wreck. Officers are now awaiting specialist assessment of the items to see if further enquiries will need to be carried out.
Armed vessels from the MDP’s Devonport Dockyard Marine Unit patrol a restricted area of water (112 square miles) adjacent to the Naval Base at Devonport and escort warship and submarine movements in and out of the Base. The Unit is often tasked by the Queen’s Harbour Master (a Royal Navy appointment) at the Base, who has responsibility for keeping the restricted zone clear of non-military vessels, and ensuring the proper enforcement of any legal requirements.
On this occasion a report was received by QHM from the local coastguard that divers had been seen off Penlee Point. A police RIB attended and spoke to two men on board a vessel.
MDP marine unit inspector Gordon Peters said, ‘Penlee Point falls within the Dockyard Port of Plymouth area which is patrolled by MDP launches and boats as part of its protection of Royal Navy assets.
‘We were pleased to assist in this case after receiving a request from the Queen’s Harbour Master to investigate possible unauthorised activity at the wreck of the Coronation.’