Art and Antiques Unit

MQT on 2017-09-14
Session date: 
September 14, 2017
Question By: 
Peter Whittle
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


I am concerned to learn that all the detectives of the Metropolitan Police's Art and Antiques Unit have been seconded to work on the Grenfell Tower fire investigation, causing that squad's temporary closure. The Art and Antiques Squad works with overseas police forces to identify illicit trafficking of cultural goods and takes action when UK-based dealers and auctioneers report their suspicions about objects of dubious provenance. It also maintains the London stolen art database, which stores information and images of 54,000 items of stolen property. You will be aware that the squad has been disbanded before, in 1984, for budgetary reasons, but was re-established in 1989, following pressure from other police forces and the international art market. I believe that disbanding the team yet again would hobble efforts to combat criminal activity and safeguard London's reputation in a multi-billion dollar global market. Can you assure me that this specialist team will survive in its current form?


Answer for Art and Antiques Unit

Answer for Art and Antiques Unit

Answered By: 
The Mayor

The MPS is wholly committed to the work of the Art and Antiques Unit and fully understands the challenges presented by any criminality that affects the cultural heritage of the UK.

At present the MPS is facing unprecedented demands highlighted by the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. As such a number of officers have been moved across the MPS to manage the significant demands of this investigation and the need to support the victims and families of those who tragically lost their lives.

Three officers from the Art and Antiques Unit have temporarily been moved to support this work amongst many other detectives.  These attachments are under continual review and at a point when they can be released back to the Art and Antiques Unit, then they will. These decisions are not taken lightly. The MPS has worked hard to minimise the impact on all areas of work including the important work of the Art and Antiques Unit.

In the meantime, there remains a member of staff within the Unit who is able to maintain liaison and work with the industry. They are being supported by a Detective Sergeant.  In addition, provision has been made for any allegation of crime to be investigated which will be done in collaboration with staff from that team.  As such, the work of the unit is very much operational although it is recognised that for the interim, matters will be managed in a different way whilst the three officers are working on the fire investigation, who are still available to provide expert advice when required.

From next month, a newly appointed permanent unit head, Detective Sergeant Rob Upham, will be in post.