Tougher punishments for protesters who damage poppy wreaths and deface memorials


Protesters who damage poppy wreaths and deface memorials will face prison under new sentencing guidelines after Extinction Rebellion activists hijacked Cenotaph on Remembrance Day

  • Ministers looking at tougher punishments for those defacing war monuments
  • Plans could include a three-month jail term if the damage is less than £5,000
  • But more serious incidents could carry a ten-year prison sentence
  • Comes after XR protestors were slammed for hanging politicised wreath at Cenotaph on Remembrance Day

Protestors who deface war memorials could be jailed under new plans to protect sites by the government.

Ministers are drawing up new sentencing guidelines to stop demonstrators or vandals damaging war graves and tributes such as poppy wreaths.

It comes after an Extinction Rebellion activist walked over tribute to hang a politicised wreath on the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day.

British Army veteran Donald Bell, 64, and mother-of-two Anne White, 53, were blasted for staging to protest before the national service of remembrance.

Protestors who deface war memorials could be jailed under new plans to protect sites after Extinction Rebellion activists defaced the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the incident ‘on today of all days’ was ‘profoundly disrespectful’ while Sir Keir Starmer branded the protest as ‘wrong’, ‘in bad taste and we do not support them’.

The Royal British Legion have said that war monuments, graves and Remembrance tributes such as wreaths are in need of particular protection.

A spokesperson said: ‘War memorials, graves and Remembrance tributes including wreaths honour the memory of every member of the Armed Forces who has made the ultimate sacrifice and deserve to be treated with the utmost respect.

‘The Armed Forces community, past and present, have made sacrifices in defence of the freedoms we have today, including the freedom of speech.

Whilst we respect the right of others to express their opinions within the law, we believe the Poppy Appeal is a time for Remembrance, and not for political protest.’ 

Under the planned crackdown, defacers could be handed a three-month jail term by magistrates if the damage is less than £5,000.

But in more serious cases sent to crown court, a ten-year sentence could be given. 

British Army veteran Donald Bell, 64, and mother-of-two Anne White, 53, were blasted for staging to protest before the national service of remembrance

British Army veteran Donald Bell, 64, and mother-of-two Anne White, 53, were blasted for staging to protest before the national service of remembrance

A Whitehall source told The Sun: ‘People are sick to the back teeth of so-called activists damaging and disrespecting memorials to our fallen heroes and great leaders in the name of the latest trendy cause.

‘The law isn’t tough enough at the moment but that’s going to change so the punishment fits the crime.’

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has called such vandalism ‘an attack on our values… and an insult to the memory of those who gave their lives for us’.

In a recent Ministry of Justice White Paper looking into a review on sentencing, the government said it was ‘appalled to see pictures and reports of violence and vandalism at protests this year’, and that such incidents ‘suggests the law as it stands is inadequate’.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has called such vandalism 'an attack on our values... and an insult to the memory of those who gave their lives for us'

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has called such vandalism ‘an attack on our values… and an insult to the memory of those who gave their lives for us’

‘The public are also rightly concerned about the respect for memorials of all types, including statues and gravestones.

‘When damage or desecration occurs to memorials, the law must recognise the range and level of harm that is caused. 

‘The government will be reviewing the law in this area to ensure that where memorials are damaged or desecrated the courts are able to sentence appropriately at every level for this particular type of offending.’

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