Birmingham priest ready for prison after ignoring fine for political protest

A Birmingham priest says he is ready to serve prison time after refusing to pay a £515 fine for a 'conscience'-based protest at an arms fair.

Father Martin Newell refused to pay a £515 fine for spreading red paint on a welcome sign at London's DSEi Arms Fair in 2009, according to Birmingham Live. At Birmingham Magistrates Court on Wednesday he was given 28 days to make the payment or go to jail.

'I am willing to go to prison for what I believe. I have spent time in prison before and I will do the same again if necessary,' the priest, based in Sparkhill, Birmingham said. A member of the Catholic Passionist community, he has been jailed six times before for convictions relating to criminal damage and political protest.

Father Martin Newell at the 2009 protest. He said he was objecting to a 'trade in death'.Facebook

The protest at the arms fair was committed with fellow pacifist Katrina Alton, a member of the Catholic order the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace. The pair had used the red paint to 'represent the blood of the victims of the arms trade'.

While both were arrested and fined, only Sister Alton paid the fine. Newell said he was 'not prepared' to do so.

'I believe the arms trade promotes war and conflict and I cannot be in support of that. I will not pay, it is a matter of conscience,' he said. Newell said he 'survived' his previous jail sentences, and was even able to counsel fellow inmates. 'I found prison was a way of sharing what I have learned in the priesthood,' he said.