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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 09:31 GMT
Thatcher statue attacker jailed
Beheaded statue
The statue had already proved controversial
The man who knocked the head off a statue of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher has been jailed for three months.

Paul Kelleher, 37, of Isleworth, west London, was found guilty of criminal damage at Southwark Crown Court.

The theatre producer attacked the 150,000 statue with a cricket bat at London's Guildhall last July before decapitating it with a metal bar.

He said the attack was a protest against the ills of the world's political system.

Wearing dark blue jeans and cardigan and a white T-shirt bearing the words "small Japanese soldier", Kelleher showed no reaction as Judge George Bathurst-Norman sentenced him.

The judge said: "I don't doubt the sincerity of your beliefs. Many people share them, particularly in relation to what is happening in third world countries.

"And I would be the last person to deny any person the right to freedom of speech and the right to protest against matters which support his beliefs," said the judge.

"But when it comes to protest there is a right and proper way to protest and also a wrong way to do so.

"The way you acted to knock the head off a valuable statue of a politician who left power over 10 years ago and whose party is no longer the party of government, was very much the wrong way."

I am becoming increasingly worried as to what sort of world I have brought my son into
Paul Kelleher
The judge said contrary to what he had been given to understand during Kelleher's trial last month, he had since learned the work of art could in fact be repaired for 10,000.

"But it would seem it would never be quite the same again."

People with "sincerely" held beliefs such as Kelleher presented the court with a "very difficult sentencing problem", the judge admitted.

But having "reflected deeply" on how to deal with him he had concluded there was no alternative to three months in prison.

'Ruthless' verdict

In a lengthy speech in mitigation, Kelleher told the judge: "I would like to say I'm very, very sorry that my frustrations have led me to this.

"I wish it was not the case, more than probably anybody else in this world."

But he maintained the decapitation had been "truly justified in law", before going on to brand the guilty verdict at the end of his half day trial as "ruthless".

Paul Kelleher
Kelleher wanted to make a political point
He added: "I am becoming increasingly worried as to what sort of world I have brought my son into."

The court had previously heard once his "act of vandalism" had been carried out, he waited quietly by the statue for his inevitable arrest.

When police arrived minutes later he said: "I think it looks better like that."

The prosecution had described the attack as an "ill-conceived publicity stunt" carried out by a man who was "not an avid fan of the former prime minister".

On the day of the attack Mr Kelleher arranged a babysitter for his son and bought a Slazenger V600 cricket bat.

Once in the gallery he waited for his "window of opportunity".

When the bat "pinged off" the statue, Kelleher picked up a crowd barrier and successfully beheaded the statue.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC London's Tom Edwards
"Critics say three months imprisonment is too harsh"



SEE ALSO:
Thatcher statue decapitated
03 Jul 02 |  England



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