Four metal detectorists have pleaded guilty after being found illegally using a metal detector at a protected site in mid Suffolk.

The men were arrested on Wednesday, October 12 on suspicion of using a metal detector on a site scheduled as an ancient monument, contrary to Section 42 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.

Bradley Ling, 24, of Pond Lane, Surlingham, Kyle Mickleburgh, 25, of Donchurch Close, Norwich, Michael Travell, 37, of Beverley Road, Norwich and Aaron Williams, 25, of Fleeters Hill, Hingham, appeared at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, May 17.

The court heard the men travelled to Baylham Roman Site, a first century fort located in Greater Ipswich.

Officers found on their person at the time of arrest Roman coins.

All four men entered a guilty plea to using a metal detector in a protected place without the written consent of the Commission, as well as being charged with going equipped for theft.

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Williams also pled guilty to removing without written consent an object of archaeological/historical interest found using a metal detector in a protected place.

East Anglian Daily Times: Rural police officer Sgt Brian Calver.Rural police officer Sgt Brian Calver. (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

After the hearing, rural police officer Sergeant Brian Calver said outside of court: "It's pleasing that we've got an early guilty plea in relation to this matter.

"It's no great surprise because the evidence was overwhelming.

"This Roman site is a significant site in Suffolk. The big issue here is the loss of the historical knowledge and the loss of cultural artefacts as a result of this criminality.

"Some people may think this is no biggie and that these blokes are just doing a bit of amateur metal detecting, but these are actually organised criminals that have travelled a significant distance to come and steal heritage that belongs to us all."

The men will return to Suffolk Magistrates' Court for a pre-sentence report hearing on Wednesday, June 28.