The level of our support for our brave servicemen is daily news whether it be the defence review and spending decisions, enshrining the military covenant in law or caring for the injured.
War memorials do not normally feature in the news cycle except on days of remembrance. However following the shameful desecration of a memorial in my local park 2 years ago I found out that across the country local media reports the equivalent of one desecration a week.
When desecrations do reach national prominence, such as the defecations in Sheffield and Blackpool and more recently Charlie Gilmour’s abuse of the Cenotaph during December’s tuition fee protests, the clamour grows for the law to match public concern.
Unless the ancient law of outraging public decency is dusted off and applied, offenders who desecrate memorials can get away with a slap on the wrist for committing a supposed minor act of vandalism.
However these memorials are special and not like other public property. They are a constant reminder of the debt we owe to the fallen and provide continuity for remembrance passed down from generation to generation. Desecration shows a disregard and disrespect for those lives lost and the community’s history. It is why I have been leading a campaign calling for the law to give greater protection for war memorials.
The Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt MP, has now provided good news for the campaign with his announcement that he accepts the need to specifically recognise the gravity of desecration to war memorials. He is recommending to the Sentencing Council that war memorial desecration should be a specified aggravating factor when sentencing takes place.
This decision is significant beyond ensuring justice is done with sentences to fit the crime. It makes the fundamental point that when we make that solemn vow in front of a memorial at Remembrance Day it matters. As we approach the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War the recommended sentencing guidance renews a covenant with the fallen that we will remember them in the Courts as well.