Friday, 12 October 2007
YABBA-DABBA-DOO! FATHERS FINED FOR STONEHENGE STUNT
8:00 - 12 October 2007
Magistrates yesterday met the Flintstones when a pair of look-a-like Freds sat in a courtroom dock decked in trademark orange and black spotted sabre-toothed tiger garb.
The Two Freds - one of whom was allowed to carry his club - were the first people in the country to be tried for scaling Britain's favourite piece of rock, Stonehenge.
Salisbury Magistrates' Court doubled as Bedrock as the duo, both members of the Fathers4Justice pressure group, defended their stunt at the 4,500-year-old stone circle earlier this year.They were accused of unlawfully climbing a national monument contrary to the Stonehenge Regulations Act of 1997 and the Ancient Monuments Act of 1979.
Father-of-one Jonathan 'Jolly' Stanesby, 42, of Ivybridge, Devon and dad-of-two Richard West, 40, of Ottery St Mary, Devon, both pleaded not guilty.
The F4J activists, campaigning for changes in the law to give fathers from split relationships better access to their children, claimed they were innocent because they did not know it was illegal to climb Stonehenge.
In a bizarre twist, Stanesby insisted on being addressed throughout the proceedings as "Mrs Hodge" having changed his name by deed-poll to Margaret Hodge, the former Children's MinisterLast week he was cleared of false imprisonment after handcuffing himself to Mrs Hodge for 20 minutes in 2004. Ironically, Mrs Hodge is now Culture Minister whose remit includes Stonehenge.
The two defendants and another F4J activist David White had a yabba-dabba-doo time when they spent more than seven hours on top of Stonehenge on February 22.The court heard that just after 9am the trio, armed with a ladder, negotiated a perimeter fence before dashing to the monument and scampering up the stones.Security guard Christopher Gibbs said he gave chase.
"I got to the stones as the last one was climbing up."As security guards gathered in frustration below, the men revealed their Fred Flintstone costumes and unfurled a 30ft banner bearing the slogan 'Drag family law out of the Stone Age'.
Prosecutor Philomena Creffield said: "This is a monument of world renown which is protected against people climbing on it to ensure that it is not damaged and is preserved for future generations."
Referred to in court as Fred One, Stanesby, a child carer, told the bench: "Stonehenge has been climbed on for hundreds and thousands of years."
A veteran of many F4J stunts involving the Tamar Bridge, York Minster, Severn Bridge, Blackwall Tunnel, the High Courts, Trooping the Colour and the National Lottery, he added: "I was not aware of signs there saying we weren't allowed to climb it."
Fred Two, Richard West, said he had seen numerous photos of people standing on top of Stonehenge, and was unaware climbing it was illegal.He said the pair had gone to great lengths to ensure the monument was not damaged, including wearing soft shoes and greasing the ladder.
They were each fined £100 and ordered to pay £100 costs while West was told by chairman of the bench, Richard Arundell, that he could reclaim the banner confiscated by police.The sentencing is unlikely to enamour F4J with members of the pagan community.
Tensions between pagans and leaders of F4J have sparked an angry row over the desecration of two iconic monuments.The radical campaign group says it has received death threats from people claiming to be pagan after slogans supporting its cause were daubed on Glastonbury Tor and parts of the Cerne Abbas giant painted purple earlier in the summer.
Yesterday, Fathers4Justice said it had carried out a full investigation into the incidents, revealing it believed someone had committed the acts with an ulterior motive, as part of a smear campaign aimed at tarnishing its reputation.
Morgan Rhys-Adams, Pagan Federation member and Glastonbury resident, said: "We cannot condone violence in any way and the Pagan Federation would want to completely disassociate itself with any kind of death threats. It is not our way."
At a previous hearing the Third Fred, David White, 29, of Southampton, was told to pay £320 after admitting the offence.
Posted by Devoted Dad at 09:29