People who desecrate or vandalise memorials or statues in Britain will face up to ten years in prison under tough new legislation set to be enacted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.
The legislation, a part of the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill, will introduce protections for war memorials, statues, and even wreaths or flowers laid at gravestones.
Penalties for such offences were previously capped at a maximum of three months in prison if it was determined that £5,000 in damage was caused. The updated law will increase the penalty to up to ten years in prison and or fines of up to £2,500, The Telegraph reported.
The legislation comes in response to nationwide vandalism of statues and other memorials from far-left groups like Black Lives Matter last year. Notably, BLM vandals attacked Britain’s national war memorial The Cenotaph, as well as the statue honouring Britain’s war-time leader Sir Winston Churchill.
Conservative MP and former British army officer James Sunderland, a co-sponsor of the bill, said: “We have seen far too many incidents of vandalism where the judges have not had the powers to respond adequately to the public outrage.
“I don’t think for a second the courts are going to be sentencing people to 10 years but it gives the judges the powers effectively to deal with it.”
Another co-sponsor of the bill, former teacher and Conservative MP, Jonathan Gullis said that the tearing down of statues such as the one honouring Sir Edward Colston in Bristol was “unhelpful and divisive.”
“We have uncomfortable truths about how this country got its wealth but it doesn’t justify tearing down statues,” Gullis said.
“As a school teacher, every year we went in-depth into the slave trade, looked at the Commonwealth and what it brought to the world and how it achieved that. The kids are mindful of their history but they are still proud of it. It’s part of this nation and there is a chance to learn from it.”
Black Lives Matter disorder spread across the Atlantic with remarkable speed in 2020 after the death of George Floyd in the United States, with statues torn down or vandalized across the country and London plunged into violent disorder, despite lockdowns. https://t.co/WrQ4h1woVS
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 5, 2021
Responding to the stricter sentencing rules, the Save Our Statues campaign wrote on social media: “It’s taken 9 months but this is very welcome both as punishment [and] deterrent to protect our heritage [and] maintain law [and] order.”
The move comes amidst a wider push from the government to stand up to iconoclastic attacks on British history and heritage.
In January, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that any proposed removal of statues, memorials, monuments, plaques, and street names would have to go through an official planning process, with the ultimate decision being left up to the secretary himself.
Jenrick said that the purpose of the change was in order to protect historical monuments from the “baying mobs” and the “revisionist purges” from Labour Party-run local councils.
The policy has already shown initial success, with the left-wing local council of Exeter backing down in its attempt to remove the statue of General Sir Redvers Buller in February.
The government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill will also introduce more restrictive regulations on protests in general. The updated legislation will set limits on protests, such as mandating they end with a certain time period and even setting noise level standards.
The law will also prevent acts of civil disobedience from groups like Extinction Rebellion from blocking off the entrance to Parliament.
"What statues do is point us to a place in our collective history, they form part of a wider conversation. We must not lose that knowledge in favour of appeasing virtue signalling mobs.” https://t.co/tk90wlXmOL
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 5, 2021
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