Second art attack at Westminster Abbey: 'Suffragette-style' protester arrested for criminal damage after statue is spray-painted

A woman has been held in London for a 'protest against the family courts system' just weeks after a portrait of the Queen was vandalised

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The Independent Culture

A statue in Westminster Abbey has been defaced with spray-paint in an apparent “copycat Suffragette-style protest” against the family courts system, with one woman arrested in connection to the incident.

Activists entered the central London church on Sunday night and sprayed a statue on the left side of the nave, according to a statement issued by the protest group Fathers4Justice.

They said that their campaigner Martin Matthews, of Great Bookham in Surrey, was present at the scene while Cheryl Corless, from Stolen Children of the UK, allegedly defaced the statue before being arrested and taken away by police for questioning.

The incident comes after a call from Fathers4Justice last week for “independent direct action”, with the group saying it had given up on engaging with the political establishment.

It is the second protest of its kind to occur within Westminster Abbey in recent weeks, and the third to target items of cultural heritage.

A Fathers4Justice spokesman said: "This was a copycat Suffragette-style protest. Obviously that is the way we are heading at the moment after the two protests on paintings.

"Everyone is celebrating what the Suffragettes did 100 years ago and now we are doing the same type of thing to get equality for fathers in the justice system.

"This protest is about the whole family courts system and the fact that they operate in secret behind closed doors - they are unaccountable and can do whatever they like without the public knowing a thing about it. We want to see a transparent and open family court system."

The group Stolen Children of the UK says it is campaigning against the Government, who “we feel have acted above and beyond the law by stealing our children from our care with false allegations, lies and corruption.”

In a mission statement they add that: “We shall prevail, though none of us really know what we are doing.”

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "At 7.05pm we were called to reports that a statue had been spray painted in Westminster Abbey.

"A woman has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and is being held at a central London police station. A man was also present but was not arrested."

On Friday Paul Douglas Manning, 57, a protester thought to be linked to Fathers4Justice, glued a four-inch photograph of a young boy to John Constable's masterpiece The Hay Wain in the National Gallery. He has been charged with criminal damage.

Fathers4Justice campaigner Tim Haries allegedly sprayed the word "help" onto a portrait of the Queen in Westminster Abbey on 13 June. He has already indicated that he will plead not guilty to one count of criminal damage.