What is Heritage Crime?

Heritage crime is "any offence which harms the value of England's heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations".

Heritage assets are sites which are considered to have a value to the heritage of England and include:

  • Listed buildings
  • Scheduled monuments
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Protected marine wreck sites
  • Conservation areas
  • Registered parks and gardens
  • Registered battlefields
  • Protected military remains of aircraft and vessels of historic interest
  • Undesignated but acknowledged heritage buildings and sites.

Some of these heritage assets are protected by specific criminal offences to prevent harm caused by damage and unlicensed alteration.

However, other crimes such as theft, criminal damage, arson and anti-social behaviour offences can also damage and harm heritage assets and interfere with the public's enjoyment and knowledge of heritage assets.

Reporting Heritage Crime

If you witness a suspected heritage crime in action call 999 immediately and ask for the police. For all other non-urgent enquiries please contact Dorset Police here. For your own safety, do not approach suspects yourself or touch anything at the scene.

If possible, give information on: 

  • What is happening
  • The exact location (a map reference or local landmark can be useful)
  • The date and time of the incident
  • Who is involved (e.g. number of people, clothing worn, tools being carried, or any dogs)
  • The make, colour and registration number of any vehicle
  • If it is safe to do so take photos which may be used as evidence and remember to ask the police for an incident reference number.

Report Heritage Crime

Dorset Police

Report Heritage Crime Anonymously


Legislation and enforcement powers 

Historic England, together with the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and a range of partners across the heritage and law enforcement sectors, have set up the Heritage Crime Programme.

Relevant legislation for prosecuting heritage crime may include:

  • Criminal Damage Act 1971
  • Theft Act 1978
  • Treasure Act 1996
  • Dealing in Cultural Objects Act 2003
  • Protection of Wrecks Act 1973
  • Protection of Military Remains act 1986
  • Town and Country Planning Act 1990
  • Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.