Pair found guilty of causing criminal damage to The Hay Wain
Just Stop Oil pair who plastered John Constable’s masterpiece The Hay Wain with ‘dystopian’ posters that left it needing £1,000 of repairs are found guilty of causing criminal damage
- Hannah Hunt, 23, and Eben Lazarus, 22, attacked artwork at the National Gallery
- The eco-vandals, both of Trowbridge, glued their hands to its frame on July 4
- Each have been convicted and will be sentenced on a date yet to be fixed
Two eco-vandals who covered John Constable’s painting The Hay Wain with ‘dystopian’ posters and inflicted more than £1,000 worth of repairs have been found guilty of causing criminal damage.
Hannah Hunt, 23, and Eben Lazarus, 22, taped printed posters of a ‘dystopian version’ of the artwork on to the painting before gluing their hands to its frame in the National Gallery on July 4 this year.
The Hay Wain, which was painted in 1821, shows a rural Suffolk scene of a wagon returning to the fields across a shallow ford for another load.
Hunt and Lazarus, both of High Street, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, have each been convicted by a district judge of causing criminal damage. They will be sentenced on a date yet to be fixed.
Hannah Hunt (right), 23, and Eben Lazarus (left), 22, pictured arriving at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, central London, today
The pair taped printed posters of a ‘dystopian version’ of the artwork on to the painting before gluing their hands to its frame in the National Gallery on July 4 this year
Their actions were associated with climate change campaign group Just Stop Oil (JSO).
In July, the pair entered the gallery with three others who distracted security officers so that the defendants could tape three printed posters of a ‘dystopian version of Constable’s painting’ onto the canvas.
Hunt and Lazarus then glued their hands to the frame before delivering a short speech to people in the gallery.
Police arrived and arrested them after security ushered members of the public out.
The painting was taken to be restored at the cost of £1,081 and fitted with a glass sheet before it was re-exhibited the next morning.
The pair argued that Articles 10 and 11 under the European Convention of Human Rights – the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly respectively – gave them lawful excuse for their actions, but this was rejected.
Hunt and Lazarus, both of High Street, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, have each been convicted by a district judge of causing criminal damage
The Hay Wain, which was painted in 1821, is one of the most popular paintings at the National Gallery and shows a rural Suffolk scene a wagon returning to the fields across a shallow ford for another load
District Judge Daniel Sternberg said the damage caused was ‘significant not trivial’ and that the defendants ‘were reckless’ and caused it ‘without lawful excuse’.
Giving evidence during the trial, both defendants claimed they made ‘a deliberate effort’ to avoid damaging Constable’s painting.
They said they enlisted advice from an ‘art expert’ who told them that ‘low tack tape’ and a small amount of glue would not cause damage to the painting or its frame respectively.
Hunt added that their actions might actually increase the value of the painting, citing an £8million surge to the value of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers after a different JSO protest.
The court heard earlier that The Hay Wain was not itself affected but the varnish on top and the surrounding frame suffered damage.
Both protesters said they performed the action to ‘raise awareness’ of the ‘severity’ of the climate crisis.
In July, the pair entered the gallery with three others who distracted security officers so that the defendants could tape three printed posters of a ‘dystopian version of Constable’s painting’ onto the canvas
Lazarus told the court that their protest received ‘huge’ media attention. Hunt said: ‘People need to hear a fire alarm.’
She added that she also aimed to ‘inspire others’ claiming that she ‘brought hope’ to a group of schoolchildren who clapped and cheered in the gallery at the end of her public address.
Both protesters insisted that they had tried other methods of campaigning for their cause but with ‘little impact’.
The court also heard the pair engaged in non-violence training to ensure the protest was peaceful.
Hunt said she learned from previous arrests protesting at an oil terminal site and outside of Parliament in London that those areas were ‘too disruptive to the public’ and chose the National Gallery because it would not affect traffic or people getting to work.
Hunt and Lazarus both denied the charge but were convicted of criminal damage.
Just Stop Oil co-founder Hannah Hunt
23-year-old psychology student Hannah Hunt was pictured glued to The Hay Wain at the National Gallery on Monday.
She described new fossil fuels as ‘a death project by our government’, despite facing criticism herself for previously sharing pictures from far-flung holiday destinations such as Bali, Australia and Canary Islands.
Ms Hunt co-founded Just Stop Oil in February, marching on No 10 to tell Boris Johnson to prevent ‘the ultimate crime against our country, humanity and life on Earth’.
She became a hero among supporters of the group, which formed as a breakaway of Extinction Rebellion.
This year she glued herself to the red carpet at the Bafta awards, and she also broke into an ExxonMobil oil refinery in Hampshire.
Just Stop Oil co-founder Hannah Hunt is pictured with a letter to PM Boris Johnson outside 10 Downing Street in February
Eco-vandal Eben Lazarus
Aspiring musician Eben Lazarus, 22, was seen alongside Ms Hunt as he supported her through Just Stop Oil’s latest stunt.
He and Hunt were removed and arrested at 4.45pm and taken off site, and the priceless national treasure was then removed by staff at the gallery.
The eco-zealot was last pictured actively blocking departures at Gray’s oil depot in Essex and also disrupting traffic on Britain’s motorways.
Lazarus’s father is a musician and wedding singer, while his grandfather is Dr Norman Lazarus and 84-year-old professor at King’s College London whose research interests include how to age more gracefully.
Aspiring musician Eben Lazarus, 22, was seen alongside Ms Hunt as he supported her through Just Stop Oil’s latest stunt
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