Extinction Rebellion protester told to ‘get a job’ after vandalising war memorial

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Joseph O'Malley wrote the word 'mother' on the Monument to the Women of the Second World War (PA)

An out of work Extinction Rebellion (XR) protester has been told to find a job to pay the fine for spray-painting a war memorial honouring women.

Volunteer tree-planter Joseph O'Malley wrote the word "mother" on the 23ft tall bronze sculpture during an XR demonstration through Whitehall last November, Westminster Magistrates' Court heard on Tuesday.

The Monument to the Women of the Second World War, near Downing Street and the Cenotaph, commemorates the work done by millions of British women who signed up for the armed services and in factories to bolster the war effort.

Bearded O'Malley, 33, wearing loose-fitting clothes, a wooden beaded necklace and ripped-open shoes, was found guilty of criminal damage to property under £5,000 in his absence earlier this year, the court heard.

O'Malley was found guilty of criminal damage to property under £5,000 (PA)

District Judge Richard Blake said: "It wasn't protest, it was just vandalism.

"The manner in which you attacked this memorial was a senseless expression of the word ‘mother'.

"For some reason, on this protest you involved yourself in hooliganism and vandalism. It was senseless.

"I fail to see how defacing a significant monument which recognises the role of women in our society, for too many decades overlooked, in overcoming the tyranny of Nazism, how defacing this memorial can in any way further the cause of those who seek to bring to our attention concerns about climate change.”

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The judge ordered O'Malley, of Manor Way, Ruislip, to pay a £500 fine, a £50 victim surcharge, and £200 costs - a total of £750.

He said: "There's no reason I'm told you could not get employment. You're going to need to find some work to pay this off.”

The monument was unveiled by the Queen in 2005, 60 years on from the end of the conflict which scarred Europe.

Designed by John Mills, it depicts the hung-up uniforms and working clothes of female munitions workers and servicewomen.

Extinction Rebellion protesters camp in tents around the Monument to the Women of World War II on Whitehall in Westminster, central London (Getty)

Defending, Chantel Gaber said: "His intention wasn't to damage that memorial. It wasn't intended to cause offence.

"It was impulsive during the march. There was no long-term damage. The damage was temporary and minimal.”

Ms Gaber said O'Malley was jobless and carried out volunteer work, including tree-planting for a group called Fellowship of the Trees.

It was not possible to get a precise figure for the cost of removing the spray paint from the memorial, which remained on the sculpture for around two months, the court heard.