Man who found Anglo Saxon treasure has no legal claim to it
The metal detectorist who unearthed the Staffordshire haul has no automatic right to claim the treasure's seven-figure sum value, a law expert has said.
Terry Herbert, 55, who found the collection just below the surface of a cultivated field, will only receive a payout when the Government rules the discovery is worthy of a reward, according to Sarah Worthington, a professor at the London School of Economics.
In the past, rewards have been paid for similar finds at the Government's discretion, she said. Under legislation drawn up in 1996 ownership of the haul switches to the state after it is declared as treasure, she said.
Prof Worthington added: "I think it is likely that the finders will receive a reward as it would seem reasonable - but there is no legal right.
"The treasure is almost automatically claimed by the Crown," said Prof Worthington. "It is a pretty obvious problem about whether someone who finds it, owns it or not.
"The basic rule is that the finder can keep it unless the real owner turns up - but that rule has always had exceptions. The Treasure Act was introduced in 1996 to clear this up."
She said there would be scope to receive a reward for the historic find when the items are transferred to a museum.
Prof Worthington added: "The Act makes provision for the secretary of state to reward finders of treasure. The provision was given as an incentive."
The Treasure Act 1996, which came into force on September 24 1997, declares that the Government must determine whether a reward is to be paid before it is transferred to a museum. If the Government determines a reward is to be paid, it must not exceed the treasure's market value, according to the legislation.
Mr Herbert and the owner of the land have agreed to split the proceeds after the sale of the artefacts, which include sword pommels and at least two crosses.