A Fathers4Justice campaigner from Doncaster accused of defacing a portrait of the Queen with purple paint while it was hanging in Westminster Abbey told jurors he did so to highlight the “social justice issue of our time” as they retired to consider their verdict.
Tim Haries, 42, is alleged to have smuggled a can of purple spray paint into the abbey on June 13 before scrawling the word “help” on the painting worth £160,000.
Jurors at London’s Southwark Crown Court previously heard that moments after committing the act, Haries is alleged to have 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 carried out the grafitti on the large oil painting before being tackled to the ground by a steward.
On Wednesday, ahead of being sent out to deliberate their verdict, jurors were addressed by Haries who told them he has now decided to represent himself.
Presenting his own closing speech, Haries, who denies 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.”
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.
He told jurors: “There is, as you all know, an honourable tradition of civil disobedience here and elsewhere in the world.
“These were people who wanted to demonstrate the passion of their beliefs and the justice of their cause and they did so, by making throughout their actions, two important statements.
“First, ‘I believe so strongly in this cause that I’m prepared to show it by breaking the law’.
“And secondly, ‘The world can judge how strongly I feel by seeing I’m ready to take the consequences of that unlawful act’.
“What they did not and cannot say was ‘Because I have a strong belief in the justice of my cause I should be allowed to break the law, my belief should give me exemption from the consequence of my actions’.”
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.
Haries, of Bellis Avenue, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, denies a charge of causing criminal damage of more than £5,000.