Is it time to reform our laws about returning looted artefacts? - Boodle Hatfield

Your lawyers since 1722

18 Oct 2022

Is it time to reform our laws about returning looted artefacts?

Written by

2 min read

Last week, the House of Lords debated whether laws restricting the return of looted artefacts are in need of review.

Currently, the Heritage Act 1983 only permits museum trustees to dispose of items in limited circumstances: if they are 'unsuitable' for retention, if it is a duplicate of an item already in the collection, or if it is damaged beyond repair.

However in the face of growing calls for the restitution of items, such as the Benin bronzes, is it time to update the law to permit trustees to be able to return items in these circumstances?

After debating the issue in the House of Lords, Lord Kamall concluded by saying that:

“The [1983] law exists to protect the objects in our national museums, but we want to share these wonderful objects with the rest of the world, whether in person, digitally or through bilateral conversations. I am afraid that for these reasons the Government have no current plans to amend this Act.”

With the fortieth anniversary of the Act coming up in May, further debate is expected in the coming months.

Interested in hearing more? You can sign up to receive content from Boodle Hatfield by using the subscription link here.

A House of Lords committee on 13 October debated whether a Parliamentary Act should be reformed to allow three national museums to deaccession and restitute works from their collections.

Written by