'I'm so sorry': The moment shamed teenager who posted Facebook picture of burning poppy on Remembrance Sunday was forced to make humbling apology to war widows and veterans

Linford House was arrested after posting the image on Facebook last month
He will be prosecuted but instead met with charity workers and veterans
Nikki Scott, who lost her husband in Afghanistan, among those at meeting


PUBLISHED: 11:56 EST, 20 December 2012 | UPDATED: 04:10 EST, 21 December 2012

A teenage lout who provoked outrage after posting a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook has apologised for his actions at a meeting of Army veterans, serving soldiers and a war widow.

Linford 'Linney' House, then 19, was arrested after the disrespectful image was seen on the internet during the early hours of Remembrance Sunday.

The controversial photo showed a cigarette lighter with a flame burning the bottom of a British Legion paper poppy, allegedly with the words: 'How about that you squadey [sic] ****s.'

From left: Linford 'Linney' House, Nikki Scott, founder of charity Scotty's Little Soldiers; Paula Kitching from the Royal British Legion; ex-serviceman Mark Horton and Garrison Sergeant Major John Garrity

Linford House, right, was arrested on November 11 after posting an image of a burning poppy online, left

House sparked public fury with the prank and was detained for more than a day under the Malicious Communications Act. Police also seized his phone.

But Kent Police today confirmed the Canterbury College student will not face prosecution.

Instead, shame-faced House met an ex-naval marine, a sergeant major, members of the Royal British Legion and representatives from an Army-affiliated charity at an undisclosed location yesterday.

Among those in attendance was Nikki Scott, founder of Scotty's Little Soldiers, whose husband was killed during a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The army veterans and serving personnel discussed the impact of House's actions and how they affected others as part of Kent Police's new 'restorative practice' programme.

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.

Contrite: Speaking at the restorative justice meeting, Linford House, now 20, said he was 'deeply sorry' for what he did

The student, who is on a practical environmental studies building course, had to be moved out his home in Aylesham, Kent, after the offensive picture appeared on November 11.

Just hours after the picture was published an online hate campaign lead by the English Defence League outed the teenager as 'Linny "Power" House.'

Among those in attendance was Nikki Scott, founder of Scotty's Little Soldiers, who lost her husband, Corporal Lee Scott (above) during a tour of duty in Afghanistan

EDL members attached his personal contact details to the burning poppy image.

They captioned the photo: 'If anyone wonders why the English Defence League take to the streets and protest against those who disrespect our country's way of life and laws.'

Naked pictures from the suspect's social media pages were also posted as a wave of public anger appeared to mount against him following the allegations.

It later emerged Mr House's 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.

His father, Keith, who plays for Snowdon 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.

Speaking at the restorative justice meeting, Mr House, now 20, said he was 'deeply sorry' for what he did.

He said: 'I think about it everyday 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.'

Nikki Scott, whose husband Corporal Lee Scott of The 2nd Royal Tank Regiment was killed in Afghanistan on 10 July 2009, said: 'My family and I learned 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.'

Members of the English Defence League demonstrate against poppy burning last year. Just hours after Mr House posted his own image in November, he was named and his picture was published online by the EDL

The meeting was hosted by Police Sergeant Jim Watson and attendees included Garrison Sergeant Major John Garrity, investigating officer Detective Sergeant Neil Watford, Paula Kitching from the Royal British Legion and ex-serviceman Mark Horton.

A spokesman for Kent Police said: 'A man arrested after pictures of a burning poppy were posted online has met serving Armed Forces personnel, ex-servicemen and charity representatives as part of a process called Restorative Practice.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said people should face a trial only if comments on Facebook go beyond being offensive

'Linford House, 20, was arrested on Sunday 11 November after posting an offensive comment alongside a picture of a burning poppy.

'Officers investigated after receiving complaints about the posting on a social media website.

'Mr House agreed to meet representatives of those affected by his behaviour to apologise and discuss how his actions affected others.'

He added: '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.

'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.

'Restorative practice has a proven track record of reducing re-offending. It can be used alongside the criminal justice system or, as in this case, an alternative thus keeping young people out of the criminal justice system.

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.

The meeting, held in Canterbury on Wednesday, also saw Mr House suggest a number of ways in which he can work with the Royal British Legion and the Scotty's Little Soldiers charity in the future

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