Pensioner who damaged bell-ropes walks free

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The Independent Online
A pensioner who silenced the bells of her village church by cutting the bell-ropes was yesterday given a conditional discharge after she was found guilty of criminal damage.

Midge Mather (pictured), 65, claimed she broke into the church using a crowbar and sawed through the ropes to stop the noise aggravating her brother's heart condition.

But a magistrate at Chippenham Magistrates in Wiltshire refused to believe her claims that she was forced to break the law because the church authorities refused to listen to her complaints.

Stipendiary magistrate Dudley Thomas handed the pensioner a conditional discharge after finding her guilty of causing criminal damage.

He then ordered police officers to take Mrs Mather to the cells for 10 minutes after a courtroom outburst in which she claimed she had had an unfair trial.

When she appeared back in the dock, Mr Thomas told her: "The sentence has taken account of your extremely sad circumstances.

"I am not unsympathetic to your circumstances. I hope the people of Compton Bassett will realise how stupid they have been and hope they will try to see sense and start negotiating."

After the case Mrs Mather said she planned to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

And she added: "I would do it all again if it would save the life or the health of somebody."

During the two-day trial, magistrates heard how Mrs Mather smashed down the door of St Swithin's Church at Compton Bassett in Wiltshire with a crowbar before cutting the bell-ropes with a hacksaw.

Mrs Mather claimed she was forced into action after repeated requests to meet with the church authorities to discuss the bell ringing at the 12th-century church were ignored.

She told the court she was "living in fear" of the bell ringing and had been driven to contemplate suicide.

She also claimed the sound of bell ringing was making her brother, which whom she lived, John Rumming, 74, ill from stress.

Mrs Mather, whose cottage is just 100 yards from the church, denied causing damage worth pounds 1,852.25 when she broke into the church on 27 July last year.