By Neil Pooran
A FRENZIED church visitor, who caused £12,000 worth of damage after smashing stain glass windows and chairs at an historic city centre cathedral, has been jailed for three and a half years.
Lee Peattie was sentenced to 42 months behind bars after he was found guilty of trashing St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
Jurors at the city’s sheriff court heard that Peattie smashed 10 chairs and two stained glass windows while almost a hundred visitors looked on.
The 34-year-old, who denied the charges, was found guilty of malicious damage, breach of the peace and causing fear and alarm to tourists.
The court heard that Peattie, who represented himself in court, was in a state of frenzy as he wreaked havoc.
But when police arrived he became as “meek as a mouse”.
Witness Lyne Isherwood, 52, said Peattie’s anger did not appear to be aimed at anyone. But she said he was in a state of frenzy. “He just vented it out on breaking the chairs. It was frightening to see,” she added.
The carer, from Manchester, added: “I was very worried. I didn’t know what was causing him to do this.”
Samantha Aitken, 35, who works at the cathedral, said Mr Peattie was in a state of “controlled aggression” when he was carrying out the attack.
She said she first became aware of the incident when she heard a “thumping sound” coming from the back of the cathedral at around 6pm.
She said she ran to the back of the cathedral and asked the visitors gathered there to leave.
She said: “He was very determined. I saw broken chairs and broken windows.”
Fiscal depute Dev Kapadia asked her: “How did you reach the conclusion that the windows were damaged by the chairs?”
She said: “There was bits of chair legs sticking out of the window.
“I was very concerned at this stage there was between 70 and 100 people in the cathedral at the time.”
Kevin Hall, 45, a mature student at Edinburgh University who works part time as a sales assistant at the cathedral, said he was the first on the scene of the incident, which took place in the Holy Cross aisle of the church.
He said Peattie was shouting and screaming as he smashed the chairs against the ground.
“I approached him initially, but then he came towards the gates with a piece of chair in his hand, and for a brief second I felt threatened,” he said.
But Mr Hall said the attacker was “as meek as a mouse” when police challenged him, and he lay down on the ground and was arrested.
Graham Tristram, an architect who works for the cathedral said the smashed chairs would cost £2,242 to replace. Repair works on the stained glass windows would cost £9,020.
And a rectangular stone bearing John Knox’s name, damaged during the incident, would cost £767 to repair.
Peattie, who represented himself, said he had not been given enough time to prepare his arguments. He said: “The law says I should have reasonable time to prepare my case.
“I have been given 36 hours to go through statements.”
He had earlier asked Mrs Aitken if she felt frightened during the incident, to which she replied ‘yes.’
“But not frightened enough to leave?”, Peattie replied.
She said: “I was the responsible person there so I had to make sure everyone was safe.”
Mr Kapadia said Mr Peattie had gone into the church and caused ‘havoc’.
He had previous convictions for racist conduct and dishonesty, said the fiscal. Peattie’s criminal career began in 1993, and his record of previous convction ran to seven pages, said the prosecutor.
Sources close to the cathedral said they understood Peattie had not received his unemployment benefit on the day of the attack on the church and that he took his anger out on the first building he could find.
The cathedral was founded as a church in the 12th century by the Scottish royal family, who were working to spread Catholicism throughout Scotland.
For hundreds of years it has hosted events of national importance, and in 1977 a long-term, ongoing restoration programme began.
Sheriff John Horsburgh said he had no option but to jail Peattie for the offences, which happened in June this year.
He said: “Your record is so lengthy, and the nature of these charges so serious, that a custodial disposal is appropriate here.”
The sheriff took into account where Peattie’s crimes took place. “The amount of damage you caused is going to cost £12,000 to repair,” he said.
The sentence was backdated to June 24.