Judge throws out Hay Wain vandalism case

A FATHERS’ rights campaigner from South Yorkshire accused of vandalising a John Constable masterpiece at London’s National Gallery will not be tried by a jury – because the attack caused only £3,300 worth of damage.

Paul Manning, 57, was yesterday due to plead to a charge of criminal damage at Southwark Crown Court but the case was sent back to magistrates’ court for trial after Judge Alistair McCreath queried the bill for cleaning up the artwork.

Manning, a Fathers4Justice campaigner from Kirkstone Road, Sheffield, faced one count of damaging property after a four-inch photo of a young boy was glued to The Hay Wain in June.

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Judge McCreath said the cost of the damage had been £3,346, causing curators to bring forward a planned restoration, rather than the previous estimate of £30,000. He said: “I’m simply quashing the indictment. End of. The matter must take its course elsewhere.”

The case will now be sent to Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Manning told a public gallery packed with Fathers4Justice campaigners: “I want to thank you all for coming.”

Constable’s painting shows an idyllic rural scene with a cart in the River Stour in Suffolk.