Palace Benefits Protestor Jailed
15 January 2014, 19:08
A man who tried to get into Buckingham Palace armed with a knife in protest against his Incapacity Benefit being stopped has been jailed for 16 months.
David Belmar, 44, had been making "nothing more sinister" than a "cry for help" when he vaulted the barrier at the north centre gate before being rugby tackled to the ground by armed police officers, his lawyer told Southwark Crown Court in central London.
"This was a question of Mr Belmar being upset at that decision to stop his Incapacity Benefit. He had become increasingly frustrated and desperate," Louise Culleton told the court.
"He did not know how to address that problem or perhaps was not thinking clearly as to how to address that by the formal routes and therefore wanted to draw publicity to what had happened to him."
She added that he had acknowledged afterwards that he had acted "foolishly" and was "most remorseful" for his actions.
Peter Zinner, prosecuting, said police officers had spotted Belmar, of Dale View Road, Haringey, "pacing up and down" behind a crowd of tourists on the morning of October 14 last year.
"Suddenly without any warning, the defendant ran through the crowd towards the gate and effectively hurdled the vehicle blocker into the Palace grounds," he said.
"Although the police officers were alarmed by what was perceived to be a determined effort by the defendant to enter the Palace grounds it seemed that the officers reacted professionally and coolly, assessed the risk to themselves and other parties and managed to restrain the defendant and arrest him without the need to deploy firearms."
Belmar, who admitted trespass and possession of a knife at an earlier hearing, has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia since 2002 and had been on regular anti-psychotic medicine since then, the court heard.
Judge Michael Gledhill QC, said Belmar had been in a "stable medical state" since 2002 and his condition had "absolutely nothing to do" with the offences.
He added that although Belmar had been told that he was no longer eligible for Incapacity Benefit and capable of work he had "no doubt at all" that it was "absolutely right" that he had been told he could seek Job Seekers Allowance and look for work.
"I understand you believe you were being treated unfairly and that you were not being listened to and say you did not know what to do," he told Belmar.
"Well, there are countless other people in exactly the same position following the relatively recent changes to the country's benefit system.
"But they don't all arm themselves with knives and go to Buckingham Palace intending to trespass within the grounds or enter the Palace themselves.
"That is why what you did could be described as a stunt."
Sentencing Belmar to 16 months in jail, he said: "I am satisfied of course that you were suffering from a mental illness but that had absolutely nothing to do with these offences.
"You were determined to make a protest, you were determined to attract publicity to the grievance that you felt. You did everything to make sure the world would know what you had done."
Mr Zinner earlier told the court "that at no time was her Majesty the Queen put at risk" by Belmar's actions.
But he said: "The potential for Mr Belmar to have been shot or firearms discharged as a result of his actions was extremely high and we say that these were dangerous circumstances."
Judge Gledhill said that in 1989 Belmar, then aged 20, had been given what appeared to be an informal warning for throwing a firework into the "very same forecourt" of the "very same Palace".
"It seems to me that there is a pattern emerging of you having some sort of fixation with Buckingham Palace," he told Belmar.