A PAGAN trio have vowed to take their fight to worship at Stonehenge to the crown court.

The women – two of whom identify as druids and the other as a witch – were convicted of breaking rules governing the ancient monument after they trespassed in the stone circle.

The court heard that on two occasions they stepped over barriers and touched the stones.

But they walked from Swindon Magistrates’ Court, after District Judge Simon Cooper sentenced all of them to a six-month conditional discharge.

Judge Cooper told Angela Grace and Maryam Halcrow from Swindon and Aberdeenshire druid Lisa Mead that the right of future generations to enjoy Stonehenge undamaged outweighed their rights under the European convention to access the stones for worship and protest.

He said : “Unseen, uncontrolled access to the site prejudices the rights of others to enjoy them for another 8,000 years.”

But Judge Cooper said he was moved by the women’s descriptions of their worship, describing it as touching and genuinely held.

The court heard that English Heritage holds several managed access open days when people can walk around the whole Stonehenge site but the fee is £38.50. Entry to the solstice events is free.

Self-proclaimed “solitary hedge witch” Halcrow said the numbers of people, food concession stands, urinals and fumes from buses and coaches at this year’s Summer Solstice had left her sickened.

The judge said: “I have heard descriptions of the Solstice events and I can quite understand Miss Halcrow’s evidence that for her they were terrifying.

"They certainly destroy the sense of spirituality for those who wish to worship.”

But he said it was not for the magistrates’ court to deliberate on whether English Heritage’s policies were correct.

Grace, 46, of Ermin Street, Halcrow, 56, of Poplar Avenue and Mead, 52, of Banff, Aberdeenshire, were all found guilty of charges of entering an inner cordon at Stonehenge without reasonable excuse twice.

On February 4, Mead and Halcrow were part of an 11-strong group from the Free Stonehenge movement who ignored signs and warnings from English Heritage staff and walked up to the stones.

They had been warned by police they were contravening regulations.

Then on May 6, Mead, Halcrow and Grace again stepped over the rope barrier.

The court heard Halcrow had wandered about singing and touching the stones.

“Miss Mead said she believed you shouldn’t let the public have free rein of the monument site and therefore there should be a charge, but not a massive one and she could not afford the entry fees on her benefits,” said the judge.

Vow to appeal

The women have vowed to appeal their sentence

Maryam Halcrow, who described herself at the witness box as a “solitary hedge witch”, told the Swindon Advertiser after the hearing: “It’s the best we could have expected and the District Judge has given us grounds to take it further.” 

Lisa Mead added: “I went into Stonehenge for the first time when I was 16 and I felt the subtle earth energies. Then I learned how you can heal people with these subtle earth energies. 

“My message to English Heritage is to stop exploiting Stonehenge as a cash cow. They’ve got no regard to our spiritual beliefs and practices. It’s just profit, profit, profit.”

English Heritage responds...

Following the case, Kate Davies, English Heritage’s Director of Stonehenge, said: “We are pleased with the court’s guilty verdict. The Stonehenge Regulations (1997) exist to protect Stonehenge now and for future generations to enjoy. As guardians of the monument, an employer and host to more than a million visitors from around the world each year, we cannot stand by and allow people to put the monument or people at risk at Stonehenge.

 “We appreciate that Stonehenge has spiritual significance for many people. That is why we work with pagan and druid groups throughout the year to facilitate opportunities for access for ceremonies and access at and around the time of solstices and equinoxes.”