A man has been found guilty of defacing an Australian artist’s portrait of the Queen with purple paint while it was hanging in Westminster Abbey.
Tim Haries, a Fathers4Justice campaigner, told jurors he vandalised the STG160,000 ($A296,000) oil painting to highlight the “social justice issue of our time”.
He had denied a charge of causing criminal damage of more than STG5000 ($A9300) but was on Wednesday found guilty by jurors at London’s Southwark Crown Court.
The 42-year-old father-of-two smuggled a can of purple spray paint into the abbey on June 13 before scrawling the word “help” on the painting by Australian artist Ralph Heimans.
Haries looked straight ahead as the verdict was announced in front of a public gallery full of supporters, many of them dressed in purple, the colour adopted by the campaign group.
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”.
Prosecutor Allister Walker said Haries shouted “fathers for justice” as he put the graffiti on the large oil painting before being tackled to the ground by steward Peter Crook.
Photographs of the incident were later posted on a Fathers4Justice Facebook page.
Haries opted to represent himself on Wednesday and told jurors he carried out the act as a protest against the “social catastrophe” of fathers not being allowed access to their children.
“The pain of losing my children has been like a living bereavement for me,” he said.
“I believe that contact denial is a hate crime and an abuse of children’s fundamental rights.”
But as he summed up the evidence heard in the day-long trial, Judge Alistair McCreath directed the jury that direct action or civil disobedience could not be used as a defence in law.
Haries, from Doncaster in northern England, was given conditional bail to return to the court for sentencing on February 5.
The painting by Heimans, a Sydney-born artist based in London, is titled The Coronation Theatre and was commissioned last year to mark the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.
It was bought by Westminster Abbey after previously being on display at the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
Heimans admitted last year to being “extremely shocked” by the vandalism of his work.
“My first reaction was, did they get the face?” he told the BBC.
“The face is the soul of the painting and it’s very hard to recreate.”