MPs call for new law to prosecute fake military heroes
Over a month ago
A second reading of the Awards For Valour (Protection) Bill takes place in Parliament today to determine if a new law to prosecute fake military heroes should be passed.
The parliament defence committee believes a new law is necessary because imposters wearing military medals and decorations undermine those who have earned the right to wear one. Julian Lewis, chair of the committee whose report is published on Tuesday, described the impostors as “contemptible fantasists”.
“Military impostors commit a specific harm that requires a specific criminal sanction. Other countries have sought to maintain these sanctions, for reasons of deterrence and punishment, while the United Kingdom has foolishly disposed of them,” he said. “We support the aim of the bill to remove this anomaly, and have called our report Exposing Walter Mitty because those who seek public admiration by pretending to have risked their lives are contemptible fantasists who need to be deterred.”
Mr Lewis went on to say “The committee concludes that the deceitful wearing of decorations and medals is a specific harm which is insulting to the rightful recipients of these awards, damaging to the integrity of the military honours system and harmful to the bond between the public and the armed forces. This specific harm was considered to require a specific criminal sanction.” The report insists there is a “strong body of anecdotal evidence” of “tangible and identifiable harm”, but concedes the incidence is difficult to determine from official statistics. “The experience of encountering military impostors among the service charities which submitted evidence also seems to vary.”
In 2009 a Warwickshire man, Roger Day, was arrested and pleaded guilty to wearing 17 medals and an SAS tie pin when he joined a Remembrance Day parade. He was later reported to have sold the medals, which his wife had bought for him, believing she was replacing ones he had genuinely earned. The case against him was later withdrawn. At the time the MoD said the case was unusual because most of those who impersonated veterans were trying to extort free meals or drinks, or a bed for the night, rather than wanting to show off their decorations in public. Under the 2006 Fraud Act it is only illegal to pretend to have won medals for financial benefit, with a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison, the MoD says.
Gareth Johnson MP, who is sponsoring the bill said “I am president of my local Royal British Legion and we have had a couple of these Walter Mitty characters join and pretend that they have been awarded medals. He said “It makes you angry in so many ways. Not only do you have circumstances where people are trying to curry favour and admiration, but it also takes away from people who have genuinely and legitimately earned it.”
The proposed new Awards for Valour (Protection) legislation would have an exemption for actors and military re-enactment.