June 25, 2020 at 7:37 am
I have always been an admirer of our Armed Forces. From an early age, I was regaled with stories of my great-great uncle landing on the beaches of Normandy on D-day and my grandfather in the heat of Egypt during the Suez Canal Crisis.
I thought the military was my future, however, a spanner was thrown in the works by an uncooperative right ear and that future never materialised.
It filled me with untold sadness to see war memorials damaged, disrespected and graffitied during the recent protests, but upon deeper investigation that was merely the tip of the iceberg.
I began researching incidents when war memorials were vandalised, and I was shocked by the leniency of sentences for those offenders who would do something so contrary to the gratitude most of us feel towards our fallen soldiers. I was inspired to do whatever I could as a Member of Parliament to dissuade the continuation of these gross cultural indecencies.
Earlier this week, ahead of Armed Forces Day, I had the honour of laying my first Bill before Parliament; the Desecration of War Memorials Bill. The aim of this Bill is to specifically criminalise offences that cause damage or inflict gross indecency at the site of a memorial and absolve these crimes from the £5,000 damages threshold. I want to see unlimited fines, charges brought before the Crown Court and harsher sentences for the criminals who cause such harm, upset and disrespect to out veterans living and dead.
This is in no way a knee jerk reaction to the actions of some during recent weeks, though I will gladly take this opportunity to condemn those protestors, this Bill is today about doing the right thing, as it was when it was first spearheaded in 2009/2010. I, alongside many Honourable and Rt Honourable Members across the chamber, across political divides, believe that the legislation as it stands simply does not go far enough.
As I said in my speech, those of us who value freedom of thought, speech and expression know we can never repay the debt we owe to these men and women; all we can do is immortalise their memory, and our display gratitude for their sacrifice.
Whether a pub dweller seeks relief or protesters seek the amplification of their cause, pleading ignorance or apathy to the enormous disrespect they do to their histories and the disservice they do to themselves should no longer stand.
Our Armed Forces, past and present, do their utmost, give their utmost, to the protection and the preservation of the magnificent liberties we enjoy on our soil. They stand to defend this country and its values across the world, not only freeing us from oppression, but freeing those overseas who find themselves subjugated by the tyranny of poverty, the terror of environmental disaster and the cruelty of extremist dictatorships. They are the best and bravest among us.
It is abhorrent that we should allow the memories of our glorious dead to be sullied and the perpetrators to go effectively unchallenged. When a war memorial is desecrated, it’s not simply a piece of property, it’s a national grave, a place to collectively grieve, to remember and to thank the thousands of faceless men and women who gave their lives so an idiot with a spray can is permitted to think, speak and act freely.
Well, I do not for one moment think that idiot should be able to act freely in the absence of repercussions and I will pursue this Bill with all of my efforts to ensure any criminal seeking to disrespect our beloved fallen is met with the full force of the law.