Ivybridge veteran campaigner walks free after Exeter Cathedral protest


AN IVYBRIDGE man who scaled Exeter Cathedral in a protest about equal rights for parents walked away from court scott-free yesterday.

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Jolly Stanesby scaled the 700-year-old sacred building on Father’s Day last June, along with accomplice Archit Ssan.

They appeared at Exeter Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (May 28) where two charges of criminal damage against them were dismissed, meaning no fines or punishment were brought against them.

Mr Stanesby, aged 48, had threatened to call the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Reverend Justin Welby, as a witness if his case had gone to trial.

The veteran campaigner had to fight for nine years to regularly see his daughter Rosy after his divorce from her mother.

He and his ex-wife now have shared custody.

Mr Stanesby said his protest in Exeter had been his daughter’s idea. However, he said he didn’t “think it was a good idea” for her to carry it out, so held the direct action “to support her”.

“My daughter still wants answers and she has written to a number of different organisations, and the judge in our case, but nobody wants to know,” he told The Herald.

He accused the Crown Prosecution Service of “clutching at straws” in its attempt to prosecute him for last year’s protest.

“It was a peaceful protest and the last thing on our minds was to cause damage,” he added.

Mr Ssan, aged 54 and from South London, was also found not guilty on two charges of criminal damage.

The pair, both members of campaign group New Fathers 4 Justice (NF4J), unveiled a banner over the west door entrance reading “Family courts are evil” while a church legal service attended by judges went on in the cathedral.

It was reported that they planned to stay there “for days”, but both vacated their high perch a few hours after their occupation.

Mr Ssan, dressed as the Hulk, abseiled down the front of the cathedral, unveiling a second banner which read Pray for Children.

A spokesman for NF4J defended the direct action

“We are campaigning for a change in the law so fathers are afforded the same rights as mothers and transparent family courts are more open to scrutiny,” he said.

“David Cameron and the judiciary must listen.

“We’d like nothing more than to be simply with our families, and happy in the knowledge our children would grow up with equal rights, but until anything is done, this [protesting] is the only way anyone takes any notice of our message.”

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