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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Is it a criminal offence to wear uniform with medals in a public

Customer Question

Is it a criminal offence to wear uniform with medals in a public military place when you are not entitled to wear them or have not served in the Military?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
HI.

Thank you for your question . My name is Jo and I will try to help with this.

In order to give you an answer tailored to your circumstances, I will just need to ask you some preliminary questions so that I can consider your position from all angles.

-Could you explain your situation a little more?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello there Jo,

I am writing on behalf of my friend who wanted to pay his respects to the murdered drummer, Lee Rigby and so went to Woolwich Barracks to lay our flowers. Unbeknown to me he dressed up in a “Walter Mitty”, which is a well known term that the military give to anyone impersonating a member of the army or any military order by wearing a fake uniform with medals that have not actually be earned.
Anyhow, no sooner had he arrived and placed his flowers when a man approached with a camera, introducing himself as a photographer with the Sunday Telegraph and that he was doing a story on people paying their respects and wondered what rank of military he was. My friend replied with his name and title of an SAS Captain with the US Army, to which the reporter asked where he was based, and he replied 'Poole.' He asked if he could take a photo, which he did, and then asked if he would be able to stick around so that he could interview him. At this point he declined, with the realisation dawning on him that it probably wasnt a good idea. The reporter then asked if he could take his number down so that he could call him later. My friend did give him his mobile and the reporter called it just to check that it was correct. My friend then went home and the chap did not call back, but on the way home he felt uneasy about what had happened and decided to call the guy back just to come clean about the fact that he was not really in the army and wanted to make sure that nothing would be printed. He did so and the chap answered - he explained the situation and the chap replied that he understood and no worries. The next day, Sunday, he didnt even think to buy the Sunday Telegraph, and it wasnt until Tuesday ( because of the bank holiday weekend over the 25th May) that he started getting abusive messages through his Face Book page, accusing him of being a fake. To his horror, the journalist had not only printed his name and rank as an SAS Captain but also put a big picture in showing his uniform distinctions and very clearly his full face. The photo was taken evidently as he placed the flowers down from the opposite side to where the reporter had approached from, so it was a different photographer that had taken the shot. Since then my friend has been publicly stoned as a result of this - Military Websites, FaceBook, Twitter, and even a Private Investigator have all jumped on him, exposing him to be what they call in military circles, a "Walt" after the infamous Walter Mitty who coined the name by pretending to be a leading military person under false pretences. Apparently it was dead easy to spot the mish-mash of medals and country clashes of his ensemble he was wearing - even his Marine hat didnt fit the rest of it. I was completley clueless as to all of this until he rang me in absolute panic after this all started.. Two of his profile Facebook photos, and a third which is of him and myself together, have been taken off his FB Page and copied into Wanted Posters and headlines such as " let us introduce you to this sick, depraved individual" all exposing him as a fraudster who is using this poor drummer's death as an opportunity to big up his own ego. My friend immediately contacted the reporter, who said that unfortunately there was nothing he could do, other than remove all the posts from the Telegraph's own Website. There then followed an exchange of texts between my friend and the reporter, where my friend literally begged him to remove all this stuff from the websites, and pointed out the conversation they had orginally had where he had verbally requested not to print anything. But to no affect, as since May 26th the post has been placed on over 66,600 social and military media network walls with the same photo from the Sunday Telegraph, in addition to the photos taken from his FB site, and I have so far painfully read nearly 1000 personal comments and "shares" which are absolutely devastating and some downright disgusting.


Some, being from military websites, such as ARRSE are threatening to track him down and ‘hang him up by his balls’, suggesting that it was he that should have been hacked up, and not Lee Rigby. Then some have obviously seen pictures of his sister on Facebook, calling her "hot" and how they would like to shag and "stuff" her and a couple of other girls in his "Friends" have been personally insulted..


 


My question is, has he really committed a criminal offence by turning up at such a publicly military place particularly of a sensitive cause in the light of the Woolwich Murder, in a fake uniform and actually lying to a reporter about his position? Could he be charged and taken to court in the UK?


 


If your answer is yes, then how long might he expect to get as a sentence at the worst case scenario? Does the fact that it was not his intention to deceive or gain anything of material value out of this "show" make a difference or aid his defence?


 


Alot of the comments are telling him that it is most certainly a crime, and there are laws such as the Uniform Law of 1894, The Army Code Section 197 in particular, and the Act of Valour equivalent in the US, etc etc, but would our Police in London really be bothered to take this up in reality? He's not killed anyone or stolen from anyone, but some of the comments have implied that they have contacts within the Police and he will be outed etc etc. and that what he has done is at the very least a punishable criminal offence.


 


I am concerned about the photos that have been hacked and put out there, including one that I am in with him. Can I report this to FaceBook for instance, or somehow insist legally that they are removed from the general internet? Surely it's not legal to take photos from someone's profile and post them on such sites, even in these circumstances?


 


Can we in any way get the Sunday Telegraph to put out an explanation that it was a misunderstanding, to help calm the angry mob out there? Knowing the press they will ignore him or simply turn around and say that they only printed what he told them. I spent a couple of hours putting a very sorry explanation to all the FB comments yesterday but I got, as expected a very curt couple of answers back from two guys who told me that there is no excuse and accused me of standing by him and how I disgust them as much as he has. There is no sympathy whatsoever – he seems to have caused a public outcry, particularly in military circles. He has gone into hiding and is scared to show his face anywhere in public for fear of being recognised. He is going through a break-down and has even threatened to commit suicide from the worry and realisation of all the damage he has done. No doubt most of the angry people would be celebrating if they found out that he had taken his own life as a result of his actions. I really don’t know how I can help him, only let him know the worst case scenario so that he can if necessary give himself up and do the time - but at least that would give him hope that eventually he could resume a normal life again. He is quite prepared to do the time but would like to know what that might be and what he can expect to happen in the immediate future, or whether there is anything he can say that might help his defence.


 


 


Your advice is appreciated.


 

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I am sorry but I will not be able to read through that amount of information in this forum.

I will opt out for others.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


But you asked me for more information and now you say you cannot read through that amount of information? I don't understand this service that I am paying for?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Can I ask - this is a UK based site, ie the address is JustAnswer.co.uk?? And yet the responses appear to be coming from US East Coast time? As this relates to a very British case, I would like to be assured that I am speaking with a lawyer who is specifically knowledgage to English Law.


I really am confused with these responses..

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Sorry perhaps I was unclear.

I am based in the UK and know only the law of England and Wales.

I would be happy to carry on with this but I was wondering if it would be possible to summarise your response? I understand that you want to tell me everything but there is a limit to how much I can view on this forum.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


FOR JOMO1972


 


thanks, it's hard to summarize as all the info is relevant and important, but I will try: someone laid flowers at the Woolwich Barracks dressed in a false military uniform with medals which he had not earned. He was approached by the Sunday Telegraph who just happened to be on site taking photos, that his rank was SAS Captain, and subsequently his photo and title were printed in the Sunday Telegraph that following morning. He had thought through his actions and tried to stop the reporter from printing anything but without success. He has no idea what made him lie at the time or even put on a fake uniform - he did not think it would cause offence. He is not English, and perhaps does not understand the implications of such behaviour in such a sensitive place and setting.


Is this a criminal offence under one or more of the Acts? I have found Section 197 of the Army Code 1955 which states that it is, but what is the punishment if any, and worst case scenario for him? He has since been publicly stoned by military and public blogs and networks alike such as FaceBook and photos of himself have been hacked from his FB and posted on Wanted posters online etc etc. He has also received death threats over the internet and has gone into hiding. His fear is so great that he is contemplating taking his own life rather than live in shame - over 66,600 posts alone have headed him as a sick and depraved individual. He did not intend to deceive, but it does look bad. Can you tell me legally what the worst case scenario is? Thanks.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Thanks.

Can i presume that he is not a serving soldier and has never been?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


FOR JOMO1972


 


Hi, yesterday I found out that when he was 20 he was conscripted to an army unit in Poland on March 5th 1998 but on April 10th that same year he was deemed "unfit for military service during peace". The reason for discharge was "On the verge of mental handicap". He has the document in English Translation dated April 10th 1998 issued by the District Military Medical Board in Zary, Poland. Therefore technically he was in the military but for only one month.


 


 

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Ok.

But the uniform didn't come from that service?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


No, at first he told me that it belonged to someone else but then I discovered that he had bought it from a fancy dress shop in London. I know this doesent sound good and I still can hardly believe how stupid he has acted.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Thanks.

I just need 30 mins to look at the law. I know there is a service offence but I don't think there is a civilian offence.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Thank you.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
OK.

The old law under the Army Act 1955 is no longer in force. Its been superceded by the Armed Forces Act 2006 which is now in force and has repealed the old prohibition upon wearing medals not awarded

However, there is an offence under the Uniforms Act 1894 which does apply to civilians and that coverings wearing uniforms without authority or permission.

That offence attracts a fine of up to £1000.

There are also offences under the Public Order Act that are more likely to be used just because they are better known.

This is always supposing that there is any prosecution at all.

Can I help further?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

FOR JOMO1972


Thank you very much for your answer yesterday and I apologise for not being able to respond until now, but this is most helpful.. Can you tell me more about the offences under the Public Order Act that are more likely to be used? This sounds more applicable in my opinion as well, given the extent of the public outrage it appears to have caused. But would you agree that £1000 is the maximum fine that could be imposed, and definately no prison sentence since the latest law. of 2006? Many thanks.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Yes, but you can get custody under the public order act.

The only public order offence I can see immediately is s5 which carries a fine.

The only other offence that I can see that could apply is outraging public decency but that does carry custody and its contrary to common law so there's no specific period. Its to be hoped they don't find that.

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