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War memorial vandals 'never see light of court'

Courts are failing to convict people who desecrate war memorials, new figures reveal, a few days before Remembrance Sunday.

Britain's 100,000-plus war memorials have long been the target of vandals and scrap metal thieves, subject to graffiti and people stealing wreaths and plaques. But a Freedom of Information Request revealed that just one in ten of those arrested for desecration crimes have been successfully convicted.

Writing for PoliticsHome, Tory MP David Burrowes said: "It is clear that the law, as it stands, does not treat these crimes as seriously as it should. It makes no recognition of the memorials’ significance, and only measures these crimes by the financial costs they accrue. Unless more that £5000 worth of damage is caused, the maximum sentence is just three months in prison.

MPs are being urged to support today the third reading of the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill, which will introduce a comprehensive ban on cash payments for scrap metal, including for mobile collectors and vehicle salvage operators. It has passed second reading and committee stages, but there is concern that some MPs may talk the Bill out today, meaning it could not proceed to the Lords.

A range of businesses, including Calor Gas, BT, Network Rail, as well as the Church of England, have demanded action to stop the theft of metal, which costs the UK economy £770 million a year.

A Number 10 spokesman said the Government was behind the Bill, put forward by Richard Ottaway.

"Our position all along has been to support the Richard Ottaway Bill. There is widespread support for this bill."

Asked if the Government could look at other legislation if the Private Members Bill was stymied, the spokesman said that was unclear at present.

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Councils respond to Scrap Metal Bill progress

09/11/2012 on Local Government Association