July 16, 2009
A FATHERS 4 Justice campaigner who brought Britain's busiest motorway to a standstill by climbing a gantry dressed as Batman was sent to prison for six months on Thursday.
Geoffrey Hibbert, from Farnborough, clambered to the top of the overhead sign and unravelled banners, forcing police to close off 12 lanes of the M25 near Stanwell while he staged the dramatic protest against his treatment at the hands of the family courts.
The desperate dad spent more than eight hours dangling above the motorway, causing tailbacks stretching up to 55 miles.
Despite claiming his actions were not dangerous and were part of a legitimate right to protest, the estranged parent was previously convicted of one count of causing a public nuisance and a second of endangering motorists.
Sentencing the smartly-dressed 49-year-old to six months in jail, Judge Alan Greenwood said: "You climbed a gantry which ran across they M25. You took a rucksack, banners, climbing equipment and your mobile phones.
"You then moved across lanes while the traffic was travelling at great speed and in doing so created a danger that you might fall.
"You could have dropped your rucksack or any other of your possessions and if that had happened you would have caused a serious accident.
"In addition you threatened to jump. In addition to you or something falling, it was inevitable that motorists were distracted or slowed down to look and take photos of you dressed in a Batman outfit.
"All relevant authorities were put on alert and lanes were closed to prevent the danger, causing great loss to those who were queuing up and had urgent business to attend to."
During Hibbert's four-day trial, jurors heard evidence from several police officers and watched TV footage that showed him dressed as the comic book hero and banners with the photograph of his nine-year-old daughter.
However, despite evidence that his actions led to motorists swerving and even taking pictures of the demonstration, Hibbert denied he acted dangerously and claimed he was trying to get law-makers to open their eyes.
Fiona Horlick, prosecuting told jurors that on August 15 last year the property developer was dropped off by a friend by the motorway gantry where he scaled an unlocked ladder and unfurled three banners.
Highways Agency staff and police then took the decision to close all 12 lanes of the motorway during rush hour, causing more than 50 miles of tailbacks on the M25 and M4.
The court was told that more than £14,000 pounds of taxpayers' cash was spent on emergency services during the protest and an estimated £580,000 pounds was lost to businesses affected by the closure of the motorway.
Bespectacled Hibbert winked at friends and family in the packed public gallery when he was led into the dock at Harrow Crown Court.
A tight security presence had been laid on at the hearing with members of the public issued passes to get into the hearing and a number of policeman sitting in and outside the courtroom.
Marion Smullen, defending, said that Hibbert, of Clayton Road, Farnborough, was left a "broken man" after he was denied access to his daughter and step-daughter and was driven to the protest out of desperation.
She claimed he had spent £54,000 pounds of his own cash unsuccessfully attempting to gain access to his daughter who he had not seen since August 2007.
After the sentencing, members of The Real Fathers 4 Justice and New Fathers For Justice staged a protest outside the court, posing as Guantanamo Bay prisoners, dressed in orange boiler suits and with bags over their heads.
Spokesman Richard West, from New Fathers Dor Justice, said: "This trial has been a complete sham from start to finish.
"The sole motivation is political. Mr Hibbert has been made a scapegoat and, in the own judge's words, sentenced to deter others."
However friends and family of the defendant criticised the activists for encouraging him to stage the protest and then "leaving him to rot".
Nephew Paul Morrison, 35, said: "Fathers 4 Justice was a bad influence and took advantage of him. They gave him bad advice and once he had given them publicity they left him to rot."
'Batman' protest father is jailed
Mr Hibbert unfurled banners from the M25 gantry
A fathers' rights campaigner who spent hours on an M25 gantry dressed as Batman has been jailed for six months.
Fathers 4 Justice activist Geoffrey Hibbert, 48, of Farnborough, Hampshire, spent seven hours on the overhead sign near Heathrow Airport last August.
He had denied a charge at Harrow Crown Court of causing a public nuisance and one of endangering motorists.
Last August's protest created traffic queues of up to 19km (12 miles) on the M25 and 32km (20 miles) on the M4.
Hibbert unfurled banners from the gantry during his protest.