Climate protesters caused over £1,000 in damage to Constable’s The Hay Wain

Two climate protesters caused more than £1,000 in damage to a ‘national treasure’ painting after pasting posters over it and gluing themselves to The Hay Wain, a court heard on Tuesday.

Hannah Hunt, 23, and Eben Lazarus, 22, taped printed posters of a ‘dystopian version’ of the artwork on the John Constable painting before gluing their hands to its frame at the National Gallery on July 4. this year, Westminster Magistrates’ Court has been told.

The Hay Wain, painted in 1821, shows a rural Suffolk scene of a wagon returning to the fields through a shallow ford for another load.

Protesters Hannah Hunt and Eden Lazarus appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court accused of causing criminal damages (PA)

Prosecutor Jonathan Bryan described the painting as an “important work of art” which could be described as “a national treasure”.

He added: “Important works of art that are part of a nation’s heritage must be protected.”

Hunt and Lazarus, both from Wiltshire, are accused of causing criminal damage and the court heard there was “no problem” that what they did caused damage.

Their actions were said to be associated with the climate change campaign group Just Stop Oil (JSO).

The couple will argue that Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly respectively – give them a legitimate excuse for their actions, the court heard.

Mr Bryan said the defendants entered the gallery accompanied by three others.

Judicial case of the eco-protesters

Eco-protesters Hannah Hunt (right) and Eden Lazarus arrive at Westminster Magistrates’ Court (James Manning/PA)

They allegedly waited for the others to distract the security officers before pulling out three printed posters of a “dystopian version of Constable’s painting” and tacking them to the canvas.

Hunt and Lazarus then glued their hands to the painting’s frame before giving a short speech to people in the gallery, the court heard.

Police arrived and arrested them after security ushered members of the public out of the gallery.

The painting was restored at a cost of £1,081 and fitted with a glass plate before being exhibited again the next morning, according to the conservation manager at the gallery.

CCTV of the incident was played back in the courthouse where Hunt and Lazarus can be seen sticking to the frame of the painting wearing JSO T-shirts.

In the footage, Lazarus said, “Art is important. It should be kept for future generations, but when there’s no food, what’s the use of art?

“When there is no water, what is art for? When billions of people suffer and suffer, then what is the use of art?

He added that he had inserted a reimagined version of The Hay Wain which showcased the “destructive nature of our addiction to oil”.

The protester continued: “It is no more important than the 3.5 billion people already in danger from the climate crisis. It is no more important than the lives of my brothers and every generation we are condemning to an unlivable future.”

Hunt was later filmed adding: “New oil is our government’s killing project.

“My hand is glued to this painting but there is blood on the hands of our government.”

Hunt and Lazarus, both from Wiltshire, deny criminal damage.

The process continues.

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