War medal fakers should face criminal charges, say MPs

Real veteran war medals Image copyright PA
Image caption MPs have hit out against fraudsters who wear unauthorised war medals to impersonate decorated veterans

Impostors who wear military medals they are not entitled to should be liable to criminal charges, MPs say.

The Commons Defence Committee said it was "insulting" and damaged the integrity of military honours.

MPs urged support for a private member's bill which would make wearing unauthorised medals a criminal offence, punishable by prison or a £5,000 fine.

The Ministry of Defence said misusing medals for financial gain could already be punished as fraud.

The unauthorised wearing of medals was previously made illegal by Winston Churchill after World War One.

But when the new Armed Forces Act came into force in 2006, provisions relating to military decorations were not carried over.

The Ministry of Defence, which gave evidence to the committee, argued that there had been problems with the way the original legislation was drafted.

Anyone improperly using medals for financial gain would be caught by the Fraud Act which carried higher penalties, said the MoD.

The defence committee's report, entitled Exposing Walter Mitty, said such laws were "commonplace" in other countries and that the unauthorised wearing of medals constituted "a harm that is worthy of specific criminal prohibition".

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Media captionA Private Member's Bill targeting those who falsely wear war medals gets a second reading.

Explaining the title of the report, the committee's chairman Julian Lewis, said: "Those who seek public admiration by pretending to have risked their lives are contemptible fantasists who need to be deterred."

The committee said the impersonators damaged the bond of trust and respect between the public and the armed forces.

"We conclude that there is a tangible and identifiable harm created by military impostors against members of society who should rightly be held in its highest esteem," it added.

"Therefore, we believe that specific prohibitions to mitigate this harm are justified."

Mr Lewis said while other countries have sought to maintain sanctions to deter and punish these fraudsters, the UK has "foolishly disposed of them".

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