Fathers4Justice campaigner Tim Haries found guilty of defacing Queen portrait

 

A Fathers4Justice campaigner has been found guilty of defacing a portrait of the Queen with purple paint while it was hanging in Westminster Abbey.

Tim Haries, who told jurors he vandalised the picture to highlight the "social justice issue of our time", had denied a charge of causing criminal damage of more than £5,000 but was found guilty by jurors at London's Southwark Crown Court.

The father-of-two smuggled a can of purple spray paint into the abbey on 13 June before scrawling the word "help" on the painting worth £160,000.

Haries, 42, looked straight ahead as the verdict was announced in front of a public gallery full of supporters, many of them dressed in purple, the colour adopted by the campaign group.

Jurors heard that, moments after committing the act, Haries told a steward at the abbey: "Sorry mate, I've got nothing against the Queen" before telling a police officer he was "guilty as charged".

Prosecutor Allister Walker said Haries shouted "fathers for justice" as he put the graffiti on the large oil painting before being tackled to the ground by steward Peter Crook.

Photographs of the incident were later posted on a Fathers4Justice Facebook page.

Haries, who was wearing a "prominent" Superman buckle on his belt, told officers who arrived at the scene "it's for Fathers4Justice" and when asked if it was him who had sprayed the painting he replied "guilty as charged", the court was told.

Today, ahead of being sent out to deliberate their verdict, jurors were addressed by Haries who told them he had now decided to represent himself.

Presenting his own closing speech Haries, who denied a charge of causing criminal damage, told them he carried out the act as a protest against the "social catastrophe" of fathers not being allowed access to their children.

"The pain of losing my children has been like a living bereavement for me," he said.

"I believe that contact denial is a hate crime and an abuse of children's fundamental rights."

But as he summed up the evidence heard in the day-long trial, Judge Alistair McCreath, Recorder of Westminster directed the jury that direct action or civil disobedience could not be used as a defence in law.

The portrait by artist Ralph Heimans was cordoned off by a rope in the abbey's Chapter House as part of a wider exhibition to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The 11ft by 9ft oil painting was bought by Westminster Abbey for £160,000 after previously being on display in the artist's native Australia and cost £7,300 to repair.

The oil on canvas depicts the Queen in the sacrarium of Westminster Abbey, also known as the Coronation Theatre, standing at the centre circle of the Cosmati pavement, on the exact spot where she was crowned.

Haries, who appeared in a grey suit, purple tie and white and purple striped shirt, was told he could leave the dock and sit at the back of the court room when representing himself.

But, after being found guilty, he said he wanted to reappoint his defence barrister Kyriakos Argyropoulos.

Judge McCreath told him: "You can't just duck and dive and have counsel and not have counsel."

But Mr Argyropoulos said he consented to represent him again before the judge said he would adjourn for a month for pre-sentencing reports to be carried out.

Haries, of Bellis Avenue, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was given conditional bail to return to the court for sentencing on February 5, but the judge told him this was not an indication of how he would be dealt with.

Haries said he did not want to comment as he left the court.

Haries later released a statement through Fathers4Justice in which he said his "children's lives are worth more than any painting".

"Whilst I disagree with the verdict reached by the jury, I take full responsibility for my actions," he said.

"I would not hesitate to petition the Queen again by peaceful protest on behalf of my children and the millions of children separated from their fathers by the British Government.

"Every Family Court judge who separates fathers from their children does so with the authority of the Queen."

He said that his "desperation at not seeing my children was further heightened" when a shared parenting debate in Parliament was attended by just four MPs - Haries carried out the offence the next day.

"As a result of this disgraceful attendance and the obvious contempt MPs have for the children and families ripped apart in secret courts, I felt compelled to act," he added.

"I accept today's verdict and any subsequent sentence that is passed. I have the utmost respect for the law.

"It is a pity that the law does not respect or recognise me as a father."

PA

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