DUNCAN BARKES We need to get tough on those who desecrate our memorials

There is a new crime wave sweeping Britain. War memorials are being stolen and sold as scrap metal, or simply vandalised in the most horrific manner. The penalty for these despicable crimes is pathetic. I believe judges should be dishing out custodial sentences. There is no alternative.

Thefts of war memorials have doubled since last year. Official figures now show that a war memorial is stolen or vandalised once every two days in Britain.

The prime minister has said he is looking at legislation for the scrap metal industry to stop this happening. But let’s not muck about here: the quickest and simplest way to stop these abhorrent acts is to stick the perpetrators in the clink for 90 days.

Recent reports of memorials being attacked upset me greatly; last week in Southampton a 16-year-old boy was arrested for committing the most unforgivable act of vandalism on the cenotaph in the city. The memorial had excrement smeared over it and was daubed with a four-foot high swastika.

What an atrocious display of contempt and disrespect, not just for the millions of men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but for the rest of society.

You may not agree with a particular war having been fought, but to defile these monuments is not only unforgivable but also cowardly; those to whom such memorials are dedicated cannot fight back.

War is not a pretty subject to teach in schools, or even for society to acknowledge. But whatever your political beliefs, surely it is only right that children and teenagers are taught not just about the politics of war, but about the millions of lives that have been lost in conflict. Just maybe this would make would-be vandals think twice before desecrating war memorials.

No doubt some sandal-wearing, yoghurt-knitting, tofu-munching sociologist is already enthusiastically writing a paper about why today’s society does not accord proper respect to our war dead. I couldn’t care less. Some behaviour and actions are simply inexcusable.

The only way to stop the violation of war memorials is to issue harsh penalties. I would have no problem with locking up adults or teenagers who were caught and convicted of carrying out such acts. This approach should extend to the scrap metal industry. The trade must now be so rife with dealers turning a blind eye when some hoodlum rolls up with a plaque under his arm or hidden in his hoody that they must be developing appalling squints.

I fail to see why we are mucking about on this issue. Why don’t we just speak to the offending scum in a language they can understand and have ex-soldiers protecting local war memorials? Then give them carte blanche to deal out rough justice to any delinquents caught trashing both the physical monument and the memories it represents.

And before anyone starts chuntering, as a general rule I abhor violent retaliation. In this sickening instance, however, I will make an absolute exception.

* No need for a bang

Never mind bonfire night, for hot stuff last weekend Mrs B and I opted for a curry from India Gate at Merston.

Always superb quality and boasting service that is always accompanied by a smile, Michael and his team cook up an explosive storm. Who needs to stand in the cold watching rockets when you can snuggle indoors with a plate of deliciously warming madras?

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