Doncaster dad sprayed ‘help’ on Queen’s portrait in Westminster Abbey

A Fathers4Justice campaigner from Doncaster appeared to scrawl the word “help” in large purple letters across a portrait of the Queen hanging in Westminster Abbey, a court has heard.

Fathers4Justice campaigner Tim Haries, 41,(right) from Doncaster, outside Westminster Magistrates after an earleir appearance.

Tim Haries, 42, is alleged to have smuggled a can of purple spray paint into the abbey on June 13 before defacing the picture worth £160,000.

As he went on trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court today, jurors heard that moments after committing the act, Haries 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”.

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Opening the case, prosecutor Allister Walker said Haries shouted “fathers for justice” as he carried out the grafitti on the large oil painting.

He said that steward Peter Crook was guarding the portrait by artist Ralph Heimans, which was on display cordoned off by a rope in the abbey’s Chapter House as part of a wider exhibition.

“Suddenly, a man who turned out to the defendant jumped the rope and approached that painting with his arms raised,” Mr Walker said.

He said that Mr Crook quickly realised he was about to damage the painting and attempted to tackle the defendant to the ground.

“As he did so the defendant shouted ‘fathers for justice’ over and over and they both fell to the floor but unfortunately not before the painting had been defaced by the defendant.”

Haries, of Bellis Avenue, Doncaster, denies a charge of causing criminal damage of more than £5,000.

Jurors heard the painting, which was bought by Westminster Abbey for £160,000 after previously being on display in Australia, cost £7,300 to repair.

Giving evidence, Mr Crook said he was on duty at the exhibition when he noticed a man’s leg being raised over the rope in front of the painting.

He told jurors: “They started shouting ‘fathers for justice’ and then I heard the hissing sound which was obviously a spray paint.

“The paint then hit the portrait on the face and a bit on the shoulder.

“By then I’d got to him and I was pulling him back. We then fell over the barrier and landed on the floor, him beneath me.

“As we were falling he kept on shouting ‘fathers for justice’. I asked him to shut up which he did.

“He then said ‘I’m sorry mate, I’ve for nothing against the Queen’.”

Mr Crook said that Haries did not resist him at all as a member of the public called for help and they waited for site security and police to come.

Asked by Kyriakos Argyropoulos, for the defence, if Haries was “violent or malicious” towards him Mr Crook said he was not.

Jurors heard that photographs of the incident were later posted on a Fathers4Justice Facebook page.

Haries, who was wearing a “prominent” Superman buckle on his belt, told officers who arrived at the scene “it’s for Fathers4Justice” and when asked if it was him who had sprayed the painting he replied “guilty as charged”, the court was told.

He was then taken to Charing Cross police station where he mainly answered “no comment” during the 25 minute interview.

Mr Walker said Haries told officers he could not explain why he had done it as he did not want to be in “contempt of court” but when asked if he thought he had made his point, he replied “absolutely”.

Mr Walker said Haries’ defence was unclear.

He told jurors: “It’s quite difficult frankly at this stage to say what sort of case this might be.

“The prosecution’s case is in fact this defendant has in fact offered no defence in the face of the evidence to date.

“It may be that in due course Mr Haries claims his actions were carried out to publicise his grievances and those of other fathers, whom he claims are denied access to their children due to perceived fundamental flaws in the system.

“He may claim for instance that his actions were proportionate and necessary to this matter and it may be in due course that this is something you have to consider.”

He went on: “You may think there are any number of lawful and legitimate ways of protesting that don’t involved a criminal act.”

A statement from the artist Mr Heimans was read out to the court in which he confirmed that the 11ft by 9ft painting was produced in 2012 during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.

He said it was bought by the abbey after being on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra and was then shipped to London in mid-April last year before going on show in the abbey as part of its exhibition to mark the jubilee.

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 exact spot where she was crowned.

Jurors heard that when interviewed by police, Haries admitted he bought the spray can during his journey from Doncaster to London before carrying out the act just after midday on June 13.

He told officers that what brought him there was “three-and-a-half years in the family courts” and said he regretted that things had come to this, the court heard.

When asked for further details, it is alleged he said: “I can’t speak without being held in contempt.”

The trial was adjourned to midday tomorrow when the defence case is expected to start.