Fathers campaigner loses appeal against jail sentence

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A MEMBER of a controversial protest group who defaced a portrait of the Queen with paint in Westminster Abbey has lost a challenge against his six-month jail sentence.

Tim Haries, 42, of Bellis Avenue, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, who told jurors he vandalised the picture to highlight the “social justice issue of our time”, was present in court to hear the dismissal of his case by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and two other judges at the Court of Appeal in London.

Haries, a Fathers4Justice protestor, had denied a charge of causing criminal damage of more than £5,000, but was found guilty at London’s Southwark Crown Court in January and sentenced last month.

The father-of-two smuggled a can of purple spray paint into the Abbey on June 13 last year before writing the word “help” on the painting.

The judges ruled yesterday that his sentence was “fully merited”.

When Haries was sentenced on February 5, 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.

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 he had nothing against the Queen personally but targeted her portrait because of her symbolic role as head of the justice system.

The 11ft by 9ft painting by artist Ralph Heimans was bought by Westminster Abbey for £160,000 after being on display in the artist’s native Australia.

The Crown Court heard it cost £9,204 to repair.

It was argued on behalf of Haries before the three judges that his sentence was “out of line” with other sentences for criminal damage.

But, giving the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Royce said there were a number of features which distinguished his case from others. He highlighted the fact that it was a planned attack which damaged a valuable work of art, it was a stunt for maximum publicity, and for some people the attack on a portrait of the Queen would be “particularly upsetting”.