Let-off for the medieval church vandal


A student who scrawled ‘don’t bomb Syria’ in giant black letters on a World Heritage Site was spared jail.

Peter Harris, 22, daubed his slogan on the historic St Margaret’s Church in Westminster during the Commons debate on whether to extend airstrikes against ISIS in the war-ravaged country.

Harris attacked the church wall facing Parliament on December 2 and traces of the paint can still be seen, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard.

St Margaret’s Church was founded in the 12th Century and rebuilt from 1486 to 1523. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Edward Aydin, prosecuting, said: ‘There were a number of public protests relation to Syria.

‘During the protest, St Margaret’s Church, a World Heritage Site, Grade 1 Listed building in a protected conservation area was damaged.

‘Mr Harris had written ‘don’t bomb Syria’ and drawn a heart and a peace sign on it.

‘Each word was about a foot long.

‘It’s the wall of the church which faces Parliament.

‘There are still some traces of the paint on the wall.

‘The cleaning cost £100.

Mr Aydin told the court police had been alerted by witnesses and Harris was then arrested.

He added: ‘He was found with a rucksack and a black aerosol can.’

Harris apologised to the court, and said he acted without thinking.

He said: ‘I am greatly sorry to all parties involved.

‘I didn’t think about how I am acting in regards to my belief.

‘I did a rash thoughtless and impulsive thing.’

Handing him a community penalty, Bench chair Penny Hatfield said: ‘The damage done was just £100, but on the other hand it is a listed building.

‘Acting like this gives no credit to the supporters you agreed with.’

Harris was given a 3 week curfew between 9pm-6am, ordered to pay £100 compensation, a £60 surcharge, and £85 in costs.

Harris, of Tideslea Tower, Erebus Drive, Thamesmead, southeast London, admitted criminal damage.