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In the UK it is no longer an offence for an individual to wear medals or decorations that they were never awarded. This change in the law was a result of the enactment of the Armed Forces Act 2006, which repealed Section 197 of the Army Act 1955 and Section 197 of the Air Force Act 1955, in which the offence was originally specified.

On 29 June 2016, a Private Members’ Bill, the Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill, was presented to make it an offence, once again, for the wearing or public display – by a person not entitled to do so – of medals or insignia awarded for valour, with the intent to deceive.

This would also align the UK with the many other countries that have similar legislation in force.

In advance of the Bill’s Second Reading debate, the Defence Committee held an inquiry to examine the problem that the Bill seeks to address, and received evidence from a number of individuals and organisations. In its report, Exposing Walter Mitty: The Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill, the Committee outlined its support for the Bill and agreed that offences should be created to criminalise the deceitful wearing of decorations and medals by ‘military imposters’.

The Second Reading debate in the House of Commons took place on 25 November 2016 and received support from both the Government and the Opposition. This Government support came despite opposition to a similar e-petition earlier in 2016.

The Bill had a Public Bill Committee session on Wednesday 1 February 2017 where the Bill and subsequent amendments were scrutinised line-by-line. The Committee adopted various amendments tabled by the Bill’s sponsor, Gareth Johnson, which sought to narrow the scope of the bill and place greater emphasis upon “the intent to deceive”. Those awards which would fall under the remit of this bill have now been placed in a new Schedule, which can be amended by the Secretary of State through secondary legislation.

The Bill is due to have its Report Stage and Third Reading on 24 February 2017.

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