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Tue, 7 July 2020

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Labour would back new law to protect war memorials with 10-year jail terms for vandals, says shadow home secretary

Labour would back new law to protect war memorials with 10-year jail terms for vandals, says shadow home secretary

The Cenotaph was boarded up to protect it amid protests (PA)

2 min read

The shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said Labour would back a new law to protect war memorials in the wake of recent protests.

He was speaking after reports suggested a specific offence with a jail term of 10 years would be supported by the Government.

The Sunday Telegraph is suggesting Home Secretary Priti Patel and cabinet colleagues are looking at the Desecration of War Memorials Bill, which is backed by 125 Conservative MPs and is due to be presented to the Commons by two backbenchers.

It comes after the Cenotaph on Whitehall was covered in graffiti and a man was pictured attempting to set fire to a flag on the monument at a Black Lives Matter demonstration last weekend.

Authorities in the capital boarded it up this week, along with statues of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi in the capital, to prevent them being targeted again.

And in response hundreds of far-right self-proclaimed "statue defenders” descended on Westminster on Saturday, leading to clashes with police with more than 100 arrests in scenes blasted as "racist thuggery” by Boris Johnson.

Asked about the proposals, Mr Thomas-Symonds told Sky News: "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."

The Labour frontbencher said he was "extremely disturbed" by the "completely unacceptable" scenes in Parliament Square this weekend.

Speaking on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday show he added: "I want to say a particular word as well about that awful scene of someone urinating next to PC Keith Palmer's memorial.

"Absolutely despicable behaviour and I hope that individual is identified and brought to justice.”

The Metropolitan Police announced on Sunday morning a 28-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of outraging public decency in connection with the incident.

Mr Thomas-Symonds also said Mr Johnson needs to set out "concrete steps" to address "the inequality and racism that still sadly exists in our country”.

"The Prime Minister needs to come forward, show that he understands the hurt and the anguish of the stories that black people in our country have spoken about so movingly in recent weeks and also to set out the concrete steps that his Government now intends to take to address that,” he said.

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