Send Poppy Appeal thieves to work with the limbless

COMMENT: University has to prove it offers value for money

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Habitual shoplifter Lewis Healy woke up today where he deserves to be – in a prison cell.

Full marks to the magistrates who jailed him so swiftly for stealing two Poppy Appeal collecting boxes in Portsmouth.

He swiped them at the end of last week and was jailed on Saturday – 12 weeks inside for those two offences.

Healy, a drug addict, doubtless took them to help fuel his habit.

Meanwhile, as we report today – Armistice Day – police are hunting those responsible for stealing two more collecting tins in Portsmouth and another from Denmead.

We hope they are caught swiftly and dealt with in the same speedy fashion.

These crimes are, as veterans say today, despicable. But they are not unique.

Sadly, each year The News reports thefts of Royal British Legion collecting boxes, usually from shop counters where they are generally not chained down. This is because we still, rather blindly, believe no-one could stoop so low.

But this year’s spate is doubly disgusting because of the poignant anniversaries we have commemorated in 2014: a century since the start of the First World War, seven decades on from the Normandy landings, and 350 years since the formation of the Royal Marines. And in an area so steeped in military history too – and, of course, the thousands of deaths which go with that association.

We could shrug our collective shoulders and put it down to modern society. But perhaps there is another way.

As part of their sentence the likes of Healy should be forced to spend time at Headley Court, the military rehabilitation centre in Surrey.

While carrying out menial tasks there, they would have to watch the heroic struggle of our servicemen and women whose bodies have been shattered during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. There they would witness where some of that Poppy Appeal cash goes.

And then they should be made to tour the First World War cemeteries in France and Belgium. Perhaps then the callousness of their crime might just begin to sink in.

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