Feb 05 2014

"Anguished father" jailed for defacing portrait of British queen

LONDON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - A man who defaced a portrait of Queen Elizabeth with paint at Westminster Abbey last year in a publicity exercise for a fathers' rights group was jailed for six months on Wednesday.

Tim Haries, a 42-year-old electrician from Doncaster in northern England, sprayed the portrait of the 87-year-old monarch last June.

The painting had been on display to mark the 60th anniversary of her reign.

Haries belonged to the campaign group Fathers4Justice (F4J), which supports divorced fathers seeking greater access to their children and has gained notoriety for its publicity stunts.

In his sentencing remarks at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Alistair McCreath acknowledged the "real anguish" felt by Haries at being separated from his daughters for four years, but dismissed Haries's argument that the act was an impulsive reaction to a desperate situation.

"You made a carefully considered decision that you would gain publicity for yourself and for your wider cause by targeting the portrait of the Queen on public display in Westminster Abbey," the judge said.

He also drew attention to the risk such acts posed to the opportunity for members of the public to have close access to works of art.

"It would be a sad day when works of art can only be viewed from a distance or from behind barriers," he added.

Haries had denied the charge that he had caused criminal damage of over 5,000 pounds to the painting by London-based artist Ralph Heimans entitled "The Coronation Theatre: Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II".

F4J made headlines in 2004 when a campaigner dressed as Batman climbed the queen's Buckingham Palace residence and another threw purple flour bombs at former Prime Minister Tony Blair while he addressed parliament.

In 2006, two of its members were arrested after scaling London's Westminster Abbey with a crucified dummy Jesus Christ.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; editing by Stephen Addison)

((julia.fioretti@thomsonreuters.com)(+4402075420324)(Reuters messaging rm://julia.fioretti.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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