War hero welcomes memorial protection

Gordon Marsden with Ian and Mavis Coleman presenting the petition for stronger punishments for war memorial vandals to No.10 Downing Street
Gordon Marsden with Ian and Mavis Coleman presenting the petition for stronger punishments for war memorial vandals to No.10 Downing Street
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A campaigning war veteran has welcomed tougher new sentences for those who damage war memorials.

Ian Coleman, president of Blackpool’s Royal British Legion King Street Club, had launched a national petition calling for such a move.

Tougher sentences for thieves who attack war memorials are among a raft of new guidelines issued to magistrates today.

Mr Coleman, who handed a 3,000-name petition to Downing Street calling for such a move in 2011, said: “I believe this is recognition for what we’ve been doing over the years.

“Everyone who saved our country deserves every respect, whether they are living or have passed away.

“Just look at the vast number of people who come to the Cenotaph to give their two minutes of silence; those people who have no respect, I find it very difficult to respect them.

“Whatever can be done to stop the vandalism of our war memorials is most welcome.”

Mr Coleman spent two days in court in 2010 after then 32-year-old Wendy Lewis was seen urinating on the town’s Cenotaph. Veterans dubbed her “the most disgusting women in Britain” and gave her a guard of dishonour before Mr Coleman launched his campaign.

Other types of theft, including electrical cables from railways – offences which could put the public in danger –will also attract harsher punishments under the review by the Sentencing Council.

The new measures mean that for the first time courts have a definitive guide on how to deal with all kinds of thefts including shoplifting, pickpocketing, handling stolen goods and abstracting electricity.

Previously magistrates were only able to issue some sentences based on similar types of offences.

Theft is one of the most common sorts of crime in the UK, with more than 91,000 convicted last year.

Jill Gramann, a JP and member of the Sentencing Council, said theft crimes varied considerably. “They range from someone stealing from shops to fund an addiction to organised gangs stealing designer goods to order, or people diverting electricity to power a cannabis farm. The new guidelines will help judges and magistrates deal with this great variety of offences while ensuring that the harm caused to the victim is central to the sentencing decision.”