On 8th January 2014 Tim Haries, an activist for Fathers 4 Justice, was convicted by a jury at Southwark Crown Court of Criminal Damage.
On 21st June 2013 he smuggled some purple spray paint into Westminster Abbey and sprayed the word ‘help’ onto a portrait of the Queen.
Mr Haries did not dispute, either now or previously, that he had committed the act. From the BBC : ‘moments after committing the act, Haries told a Westminster Abbey steward: “Sorry mate, I’ve got nothing against the Queen” before telling a police officer he was “guilty as charged”.
Sentence has been adjourned until 5th February.
What will he get?
Good question. It’s difficult to know. The painting was valued at £160,000, but it presumably will cost a lot less than that to repair it. We don’t know anything about Mr Haries’ background, but the normal course would be (probably) a non-custodial sentence, possibly a prison sentence (of about 6-9 months) but suspended.
That’s our best guess, but we will come back to this when Mr Haries is sentenced.
The problem with sentencing political offences such as this is that it raises different issues from most other offences. Offences such as this were done with the full intention of being caught and there is not remorse.
Why was there a trial if he admitted his guilt?
Essentially for the same reasons as the killers of Lee Rigby did. Mr Haries was representing himself and told the jury that he had done this as an act of civil disobedience, inviting them to acquit as a result – a form of jury nullification.
The jury did not accept this, but it was Mr Haries’ absolute right to ask the jury to determine his guilt.
Wasn’t this in the papers before?
That was our first thought – it did seem quite familiar. We were thinking of another Fathers 4 Justice activist who glued a picture of a child onto Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’. At the time of writing, his position is unclear.