Apology Over Poppy Comment

A man who was arrested for posting an offensive comment alongside a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook on Remembrance Sunday has met with and apologised to serving and ex-servicemen as part of his punishment.

Linford House, 20, told them he was "deeply sorry'' for his behaviour as he spoke to representatives of those affected by his behaviour as part of Kent Police's Restorative Practice initiative.

Officers arrested him under the Malicious Communications Act on November 11 after receiving complaints about the posting on the social media website.

Discussing his actions at yesterday's meeting in Canterbury, Mr House 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.''

The meeting was hosted by Police Sergeant Jim Watson with attendees including Garrison Sergeant Major John Garrity, investigating officer Detective Sergeant Neil Watford, Paula Kitching from the Royal British Legion, Nikki Scott from the Scotty's Little Soldiers charity, and ex-serviceman Mark Horton.

Mr House also suggested a number of ways in which he can work with the two charities in the future.

Scotty's Little Soldiers founder, Nikki Scott, lost her husband during a tour of duty in Afghanistan in July 2009.

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.''

Restorative practice brings those affected by crime and anti-social behaviour together with those responsible for it to ensure that offenders realise the effect of their actions, take responsibility and are given the opportunity to make amends, a spokesman for Kent Police said.

It gives victims and others affected the opportunity to understand why it has happened and have a say in how the harm can be repaired.

Since April 1, the force has resolved over 3,000 crimes using restorative practice as a stand-alone resolution if the offence committed is suitable to warrant a reprimand (if they are a young person) or a caution (if an adult).

Chief Constable Ian Learmonth said: "This is an example where Kent Police has worked with other partners to bring about a positive resolution for all.

"Matters reported to us are taken very seriously but often the outcome is one where we want to influence a change in behaviour by those involved. Restorative practice allows us to do that effectively.

"The wishes and views of the victim are at the heart of the process.''

Mr House's arrest last month provoked a staunch defence of people's civil liberties, with campaign group Big Brother Watch calling on police to drop their investigation.

The group's Nick Pickles, said at the time: "Kent Police need to urgently release this man and drop an utterly ridiculous investigation into something that has harmed no-one.

"It is not illegal to offend people and, however idiotic or insensitive the picture may have been, it is certainly not worthy of arrest.''