Fears that the Met’s specialist art crime squad would be disbanded forever have been allayed following the announcement that the unit has reformed.
The Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit was disbanded after the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017 so its members could assist with the inquiry. It also closed temporarily after the London bombings in July 2005. Budgetary pressures threatened to close the unit forever this year but a Met police spokesman confirmed the unit has been reformed.
The squad investigates the theft and fraud of art, antiques and cultural items and is also responsible for the London Stolen Art Database of 54,000 stolen artworks. Among the members of the squad are detective sergeant Rob Upham and detective constables Sophie Hayes and Ray Swan. Upham recently joined from the Met’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command. The team will be joined by a third detective constable in a few months’ time.
Since the squad reformed, it has recovered two stolen paintings, made one arrest and begun new investigations into stolen cultural property.
In other art and law news, the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property is now officially enshrined in UK law as the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017. The Act formalises the UK’s commitment to protecting cultural property in time of war by ratifying the 1954 Convention and acceding to its two Protocols.