Suffolk: Judge throws out Hay Wain case

The Hay Wain is an oil on canvas painting by John Constable. It was finished in 1821 and shows a hay

The Hay Wain is an oil on canvas painting by John Constable. It was finished in 1821 and shows a hay wain near Flatford Mill on the River Stour in Suffolk, though because the Stour forms the border of two counties, it depicts Willy Lott's Cottage in Suffolk on the left bank and the Essex landscape on the right bank. - Credit: Contributed

A crown court judge has thrown out the case of a campaigner accused of vandalising a masterpiece by Suffolk romantic painter John Constable.

Paul Manning, 57, was due to plead to a charge of criminal damage at Southwark Crown Court in London, but Judge Alistair McCreath, Recorder of Westminster, quashed the indictment because the cost of restoring the artwork was less than the prosecution had first claimed.

Manning, a Fathers4Justice campaigner from Kirkstone Road, Sheffield, faced one count of damaging property after a four-inch photograph of a young boy was glued to The Hay Wain at the National Gallery in London in June.

Judge McCreath told the court an expert had concluded that the damage had simply brought forward the painting’s planned restoration, and the damage cost £3,436 rather than the £30,000 the prosecution had originally said.

He said: “I’m simply quashing the indictment. End of. The matter must take its course elsewhere.”

Manning’s case will now be sent to Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

The Hay Wain is one of the country’s most recognisable works of art.

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Constable’s oil painting shows an idyllic rural scene with a cart - the eponymous hay wain - in the river Stour in Suffolk.