Penny Mordaunt has said thugs caught desecrating memorials should be ‘condemned’ in the strongest terms.
In a letter to justice secretary Robert Buckland, seen by The News, the Portsmouth North MP has called on a new form of ‘restorative justice’ to be considered.
Her plea comes as a 28-year-man was jailed on Monday for two weeks after being filmed urinating next to the memorial honouring PC Keith Palmer, who died fighting a terrorist in Westminster.
Cabinet minister Ms Mordaunt said: ‘One of the most disturbing scenes of recent days has been the desecration of war memorials, including the cenotaph.
‘In desecrating such memorials some protesters sent a message to veterans and all those in uniform today: your life doesn’t matter to me.
‘Whatever the motivations for such acts, they should be condemned in the strongest terms and are totally against the values of the people of our country, of every creed and colour.
‘I would like to suggest that for some found guilty of vandalising such memorials they might benefit from some time spent with our service personnel – perhaps at a battle camp.
‘That might give them a new appreciation of just what these people go through for their sakes. They are their armed forces. They should be respected and treasured.’
Groups of veterans, along with other campaigners, rallied over the weekend to defend monuments and memorials from vandals.
It came amid heightened tensions after a statue honouring former prime minister Winston Churchill was graffitied, forcing authorities to place protective coverings around it.
Ms Mordaunt said she sympathised with those who gathered to guard memorials and added: ‘I fully understand therefore why people have been moved to protect those memorials, and the immense anger felt.’
Paymaster general Ms Mordaunt also paid tribute to those in the armed forces, hailing them as a ‘special’ breed.
‘I know from having spent some time in uniform and working closely with our armed forces for many years, the sense of care and duty those men and women feel towards everyone in our country,’ she said.
‘It takes a special kind of love to be prepared to lay down your life for your fellow citizens. Service life is one full of sacrifices – from physical hardship, facing fear and spousal and family sacrifice too. Some make the ultimate sacrifice.’
Andrew Banks, 28, of Stansted, pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates' Court to outraging public decency.
Banks, whose lawyer said was thoroughly ashamed of his actions, handed himself into police after being confronted by his father, the court heard.
Prosecutor Michael Mallons said Banks had travelled to London for an all-night drinking session and decided to join a group of the Football Lads Alliance, who were going to ‘protect the statues’, but did not know ‘which statues’ they wanted to protect.
Banks drank 16 pints on Friday night and the early hours of Saturday before being filmed desecrating the hero police officer’s memorial.
Jailing him, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot told Banks: ‘I accept you were drunk and did not know where you were urinating.
‘The irony is rather than protecting the monuments, you almost urinated on one. That was more by luck than judgement.
‘You showed no respect at the time for a man killed while protecting the Houses of Parliament.’
Labour last week said it would support a change in the law to make damaging war memorials a specific offence.