Doncaster dad jailed for defacing Queen’s portrait

Fathers for Justice campaigner Tim Haries
Fathers for Justice campaigner Tim Haries

A Doncaster man who defaced a painting of the Queen in Westminster Abbey has been jailed for six months.

Tim Haries, aged 42, of Bellis Avenue, Balby, a Fathers4Justice Campaigner, told jurors he vandalised the portrait 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 at London’s Southwark Crown Court last month.

The dad-of-two smuggled a can of spray paint into the Abbey last year before writing the word ‘help’ on the £160,000 painting.

Recorder of Westminster Judge Alistair McCreath told him: “This was a deliberate and planned causing of damage to a valuable item of property on public display, carried out as a publicity exercise.”

The judge said the sentence must acknowledge Haries’ distress and unhappiness, but have regard to the case’s aggravating features, and to a degree deter others.

Jurors heard how Haries shouted ‘’fathers for justice’’ as he scrawled the graffiti on the large oil painting before being tackled to the ground by steward Peter Crook.

He told Mr Crook: ‘’Sorry mate, I’ve got nothing against the Queen,’’ before telling a police officer he was ‘guilty as charged’.

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

Haries, decided to represent himself towards the end of his trial and directly addressed jurors, telling them he carried out the act as a protest against the ‘’social catastrophe’’ of fathers not being allowed access to their children.

He said that, while he had nothing against the Queen personally, he targeted her portrait because of her symbolic role as head of the justice system.

Haries later said he “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”.

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 painting was bought by Westminster Abbey for £160,000 after being on display in the artist’s native Australia.

The court heard it cost £9,204 to repair, with insurers paying £4,000 and an excess of £5,000.

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 spot where she was crowned.

The judge said he was in no position to come to any informed conclusions about why the Family Court ultimately denied Haries access to his children - other than to observe that in the system of family justice, the needs and interests of the children were paramount.

“I accept that your separation from your daughters for a period of four years caused you real anguish. I also accept that you felt that the legal processes by which you tried to have contact with them had failed you.

“But I do not accept that the means that you chose to adopt to make your protest were in any way justified.

“This was, in reality, a choice you made, not a sudden ill-considered act under immediate provocation.”