Bringing forward new legislation in the Commons Tory MP Jonathan Gullis vowed he will “not sit idly by” as war memorials in the UK are desecrated. Currently there is no specific law to protect such monuments unless £5,000 worth of damage is done – making it extremely difficult to prosecute. The Desecration of War Memorials Bill would create an explicit offence that would be distinguishable from the current offence of damage to public property.
It would allow for an unlimited fine to be imposed, as well as establishing a maximum custodial sentence of 10 years.
Mr Gullis, who’s Great Great Uncle is a D-Day veteran, told MPs: “Every war memorial in every village, every town and every city across our country is sacred and serves as a reminder of this immeasurable gratitude we must afford to our armed forces both past and present.
“The passage of time always presents the danger of dimmed collective recollections. Let’s not forget the sacrifice and bravery of those who paid the ultimate price.
“Young men and women who gave up their futures, their loves, their lives and their dreams to ensure the freedoms they once knew were protected from tyranny for us, the unborn generations who sit idly by as monuments dedicated to their eternal memory are desecrated.
“I will not sit idly by and nor will I be silent.”
Mr Gullis also said that the legislation would allow judges to use their discretion in whether or not an offence is worthy of consideration of a custodial sentence.
“We are not calling for all offences to be met with 10 years’ imprisonment,” said the MP.
“But we are enabling our judiciary to use their discretion about whether or not the offence is worthy of being moved to the Crown Court without the £5,000 threshold barrier blocking its way.”
He added: “I want to see the deterrence of criminal damage being done to the memory of our glorious dead and I hope this House will support me in that endeavour.”
He said that the War Memorials trust had recorded 7 acts criminal activity since April including the Cenotaph in Whitehall which has been graffitied, climbed upon and the union flag nearly set alight.
Mr Gullis pointed out that the Bomber Command memorial in Green Park has been attacked four times since 2012.
“Those who vandalise and abuse these monuments do not have the capacity to comprehend the strength, the courage and the bravery it must have taken for, in this case, teenage boys to overcome the terror of midnight missions across occupied Europe in a tin can thousands of feet in the sky,” he added.
The Bill has received cross-party support from both the Conservatives and Labour.
Home Secretary has already declared her support for the move, while Boris Johnson has promised that “any incident of vandalism or attack on public property will be met with the full force of the law and perpetrators will be prosecuted”.
Recent protests in London have seen the Cenotaph marked with graffiti.
Charlie Gilmour, the son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, was jailed for 16 months for violent disorder during the 2010 student protests in London.
He was photographed swinging from a Union flag on the Cenotaph.