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Man in court over defaced portrait of British Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey
Ralph Heimans portrait of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II that was commissioned to mark her 60 years on the throne and hung in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey. A man was arrested at London's Westminster Abbey on June 13, 2013 for defacing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II commissioned to mark her 60 years on the throne. AFP PHOTO / DEAN AND CHAPTER OF WESTMINSTER.
LONDON (AFP).- A campaigner for fathers' rights to access to their children appeared in a London court on Friday accused of defacing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

Electrician Tim Haries, 41, from Doncaster in northern England, appeared at Westminster Magistrates ' Court charged with committing criminal damage of more than £5,000 ($7,850, 5,900 euros).

Asked to plead guilty or not guilty during the 12-minute hearing, Haries said he was "not in a position" to do so at present.

He was released on conditional bail until the next hearing, at the higher Southwark Crown Court in London on June 28, but banned from entering the city in the meantime.

The oil painting by the Australian artist Ralph Heimans, on display in London's Westminster Abbey, was damaged with paint on Thursday.

Entitled "The Coronation Theatre, Westminster Abbey: A Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II", it was commissioned for the sovereign's diamond jubilee last year and has been valued at around £160,000.

Measuring nine feet by 11 feet (2.75 metres by 3.35 metres), it depicts the monarch in Westminster Abbey wearing the state dress she wore to her coronation there in 1953, taking an imagined moment of solitary reflection.

The abbey said the painting has been removed from public view until work can be done to remedy the damage.

The protest group Fathers4Justice, which campaigns for equal access rights for divorced fathers, said Haries was one of its members. They did not endorse the protest.

The painting was first shown at the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, and now forms part of the permanent collection of the abbey in London.

It was put on public display on May 23 as part of a special exhibition marking 60 years since the June 2, 1953 coronation, and had been due to stay up until September 27.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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