South Yorkshire Fathers4Justice campaigner found guilty

Fathers4Justice campaigner Tim Haries
Fathers4Justice campaigner Tim Haries
Have your say

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

Father-of-two Tim Haries, aged 42, of Bellis Avenue, Balby, Doncaster, was found guilty of causing criminal damage of more than £5,000 at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

He smuggled a can of purple spray paint into the abbey on June 13 before scrawling ‘help’ on the £160,000 painting.

Haries was given conditional bail and will be sentencing on February 5.

Haries 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.

He said in closing speech 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.