ANTI-RACISM protesters who tear down, ‘deface’ or graffiti statues and monuments to imperialism face jail sentences of up to 10 years under a forthcoming bill which Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel is to bring before Parliament.
The Desecration of War Memorials Bill, which is backed by 125 Tory MPs, is to be presented to the House of Commons by Tory backbenchers Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke on Trent, and James Sunderland, a former Army officer and MP for Bracknell, on 23rd June.
An identically named private members’ bill was previously introduced in the 2009-2010 session of Parliament, but it did not make it into law because Parliament was prorogued for that year’s general election and the bill could not complete its course.
That bill also had a maximum penalty of 10 years, and defined war memorials as ‘any physical object created, erected or installed to commemorate those involved in or affected by a conflict or war, including civilians and animals’.
The broad definition potentially encompasses military officers who took part in colonial wars.
Under that bill, it would have been an offence to show ‘an act of disrespect including spitting, urination or defecation’.
In a letter to yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, seven Tory MPs, including former cabinet minister Esther McVey, claimed: ‘The recent protests have been dominated by criminals who are undermining the very real fight against racism by burning flags, vandalising sacred war memorials and attacking police officers …
‘It’s time for these subversive individuals to be arrested, prosecuted and punished in accordance with the law.
‘The government must send a clear signal that the Conservative Party is the proud party of law and order, will protect our culture and heritage, and will not stand idly by as our democracy is dismantled in this way.
‘Blue-collar Conservatives have put forward a Desecration of War Memorials Bill, seeking to bring specific sanctions for those who deface and damage war memorials and monuments, as happened with the statue of Sir Winston Churchill.’
The bill is set to be supported by the Labour Party front bench.
Asked on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme about the proposals for 10-year prison sentences, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: ‘I would support the government in creating a specific offence of protecting war memorials and I would be willing to work with the government on that.’