North-east MSP calls for tougher stance on ‘Walter Mitty’ fraudsters

© DC Thomson
Liam Kerr MSP.

The Scottish Government has said it considers existing laws sufficient to combat ‘Walter Mitty’ war veterans after an MSP urged Holyrood to “send a signal” over fraudsters who masquerade as former soldiers.

North-east MSP Liam Kerr is applying increased pressure on the Scottish Government to crack down on so-called stolen valour cheats and  highlighted the issue again in a Holyrood debate on veterans by asking cabinet secretary Keith Brown to examine criminalising deceitful medal-wearing.

A UK Government Private Members’ Bill to make the false wearing of medals a crime fell in May, due to the snap General Election.

Mr Kerr called on cabinet secretary Keith Brown to move the issue on in Scotland.

He said: “In Scotland we have the opportunity to send a clear message to those who would fraudulently wear a medal for personal gain, and to protect decent people from their schemes.

“Those we owe the most to, the men and women who serve and protect our country are, in turn, deserving of our protection.

“Following our debate at Holyrood, I believe now is the right time for our own stolen valour bill.”

Mr Kerr’s February members’ debate previously revealed the shocking statistic that almost two thirds of members of the forces’ community had personally come across people wearing medals or insignia awarded to someone else.

He said: “I urge us to send a signal that we hold the work, commitment and devotion of veterans, their families and their children in the highest regard, and that we pledge to forever honour and support our servicemen and women, their families and our veterans.”

However, the government has defended the legal system, saying such actions already fall under fraud laws.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “For those deliberately seeking to create a false impression for gain, the Scottish legal system is robust enough to take appropriate action. Under the common law of fraud, this is already an illegal activity in Scotland.

“It is important to protect the integrity of the military honours system, but thankfully instances of those falsely wearing medals or other military insignia are rare.

“Someone seeking to gain a practical benefit through a false pretence is committing the common law offence of fraud.

“Therefore wearing war medals that are not your own with the aim of personal gain is committing an act of fraud.”

Beyond the wearing of medals, Mr Kerr said appropriate housing for former service personnel and their families must be a “priority” for the Scottish Government.

“Veterans need better information from the Scottish Government and the MoD,” he said.