Published: 07:48, 20 December 2012 |
Updated: 09:43, 10 January 2014
by Alex Claridge
A teenager who posted a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook has apologised to war veterans and serving soldiers instead of being charged with a criminal offence.
Linford House, 19, from Aylesham, was at the centre of public outrage when he was arrested for uploading the controversial photo on the day before Remembrance Sunday.
It was accompanied by a foul-mouthed message to British soldiers.
But the Canterbury College student (pictured left) will not face prosecution after agreeing to speak to an ex-naval marine, a sergeant major, members of the Royal British Legion and representatives from an Army-affiliated charity.
House, known as Linney, met them yesterday at an undisclosed location in Canterbury to apologise and discuss the impact of his actions.
He said: "I am deeply sorry for what I did. I think about it every day and it's always in the back of my mind.
"I've lost friends over what happened but I didn't want to hide away – I wanted to make things right as much as possible.
"The poppy is a symbol of peace and I shouldn't have done what I did.
"I'm sorry to everyone that it's offended."
Among the armed services representatives he met was Nikki Scott, founder of Scotty's Little Soldiers, who lost her husband Corporal Lee Scott during a tour of duty.
She said: "My family and I learnt the hard way about what a poppy means and stands for and when I saw the picture I was hurt, upset and disgusted.
"It was good to see Mr House talk to us and apologise and hopefully he will be able to go someway to making up for some of the offence he caused."
House's arrest sparked a debate between those who accused him of insulting the war dead and those who defended the right of people to air their views no matter how offensive to others.
House, who lives in Clarendon Road in the former mining village, was detained for more than a day under the Malicious Communications Act and had his phone seized by police.
The meeting yesterday took place under the police's "restorative practice" programme.
House's agreement to take part means he will not be charged.
House, who is on a practical environmental studies building course, was moved out of Aylesham for his own safety after the incident.
His grandfather Ronald was a merchant navy seaman who was awarded a workers' VC for diving into icy water to try to save a sailor near the coast of Newfoundland in 1954.
And his father Keith, who plays for Snowdown Colliery Rugby Club, described his son's actions as stupid and said he could not remember posting the picture on the internet after a night out.
House met the veterans on the same day the director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer said people should face a trial only if comments on Facebook go beyond being offensive.
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