A MAN smashed windows at the office of Montgomeryshire MP Craig Williams as a form of protest over a proposed government bill he describes as “an attack on democracy”.

Wayne Robert Powell calmly warned staff members at Mr Williams’ constituency office in Welshpool to back away from the windows before proceeding to smash 16 panes of glass using a hammer and chisel on Wednesday, July 7, then calling the police himself to report the incident.

When officers arrived on the scene, the 53-year-old gagged himself with black tape and held up a sign that read ‘This is what happens when you ban peaceful protest’, admitting he’d carried out the attack before calmly turning himself in.

Powell, of Bryn y Gog, Machynlleth, said the protest was born out of the Conservative UK Government’s plans to push through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which he claims will make the right to protest “impossible” and threatens to marginalise those in the traveller community.

Powell, who wore a ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt when entering the dock at Welshpool Magistrates Court on Tuesday, July 27, pleaded guilty to a single charge of criminal damage. His solicitor, Owain Jones, read out an extensive letter written by the defendant – which described the offence as “conscientious protest” rather than “mindless vandalism”.

Prosecutor Helen Tench said the incident occurred at Mr Williams’ office, at 20 High Street, Welshpool, at 3.30pm on the day in question.

“James Llewellyn, who is the office manager, told police that a male put windows through at the office in Welshpool with a hammer and chisel,” said Ms Tench.

“He had a metal chisel and a wooden mallet and was heard telling people to ‘get back from the window’ prior to using the items. Sixteen panes of glass were smashed in total.

County Times: Craig Williams with Home Secretary Priti PatelCraig Williams with Home Secretary Priti Patel

“The act was not accidental and Mr Llewellyn was shocked by his actions; he and two other staff members were there in the office. He said the glass shattered into razor-like shards, fell over desks and chairs, and that it was a miracle no-one was injured.

“Officers arrived and could see a man on his phone with black tape across his mouth. When asked who did the damage, he said he did it. He said he was protesting against a parliamentary bill restricting protests and was acting on behalf of Romany gypsies.

“In interview he said ‘the plan was to arrive at the office, prepared to smash the windows, tell the police and wait for my arrest’. He said it was not an act of vandalism, but of protest.

“He said to run away would be cowardly, not an act of protest, and unworthy. He apologised to members of staff at the office. He had seen one staff member had a dog so he stopped because he did not want to harm the dog.”

Ms Tench said there was no accurate figure for compensation available as the office is housed in a listed building, the windows cannot simply be replaced, and that the frames would need replacing too. She said all constituency buildings had been upgraded following the murder of Labour politician Jo Cox in June 2016.

Acting for Powell, Mr Jones read from the letter his client had prepared ahead of the hearing. In it, Powell said: “The courts will call this criminal damage. I do not, though I agree it is merely semantics. This was not mindless vandalism but a fully thought through act of conscience. Press reports released by the police and Craig Williams’ office do not mention that it was a protest, nor that staff were pre-warned calmly to remove themselves from the windows for their own safety.

County Times: Protestors opposing the bill on a march in London.Protestors opposing the bill on a march in London.

“Nor was it considered of importance to mention that it was I who phoned the police to report the action. I then gagged myself and held a sign reading ‘This is what happens when you ban peaceful protest’.

“I calmly waited for the police and complied peacefully and respectfully. The breaking of glass represented the cracking of democracy and the gagging the silence of our ability to speak and be heard without threat.

“I do not attempt to disown my action or avoid consequences. It was an act in protest against the government and it’s ill-considered, disrespectful and unethical PCSC bill.

“I believe in the rule of law and as a citizen I consent to be governed by these laws, which are meant to be fair and just. I also strongly believe in freedom and free speech. An act of free speech is protest which is defined as a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something. Protest is the foundation of democracy.

“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, when read carefully, is without doubt the single greatest threat to democracy and civil liberties that this country has seen in recent years. This bill will make the act of protest impossible and criminal, and is an attack on democracy itself.”

Mr Jones said Powell was of previous good character, bar one offence of non-payment of a railway fare.

Magistrates adjourned the case for three weeks and requested an all-options pre-sentence report be prepared, with Powell to reappear on August 17. His bail conditions mean he may not go within 50 metres of any building owned by the Conservative Party.