A man who pulled down his trousers in Exeter cathedral before climbing on to the altar, breaking a crucifix and punching a 70-year-old woman in the face has been sent to prison. Nicholas Courtney, 35, told Exeter crown court he went into the cathedral to pray, but was overcome by the urge to offer himself to God. The court heard he then put £20 in a donation box, exposed his buttocks to visitors and went on the rampage.
Courtney, from Exeter, Devon, admitted causing grievous
bodily harm and criminal damage and was jailed for 26 months. Defence lawyer Jeremy Harris said Courtney had taken legal highs as he self-medicated but he was not mentally ill or impaired.
He said: "Courtney went to the cathedral to offer himself to God. He is appalled for what he did. He said they were despicable actions."
The court heard he went up to a donation box and put some money in it before pulling down his trousers.
Officials tried to intervene but Courtney jumped over a roped-off area and
went up to the high altar. Guided tours and members of the public were in the cathedral at the time and
staff were left "outraged" at his actions, said prosecutor Nigel Wraith. He knocked two candlesticks and a crucifix to the ground before hugging a
verger and being escorted out, the court heard. Outside the main entrance, Courtney punched the woman.
The force of the blow knocked her to the ground, breaking her wrist, the
court was told. The court heard the woman was having chemotherapy for cancer and was
terminally ill. She said the attack had been "very upsetting and traumatic". Sentencing, Judge Jeremy Griggs said: "Society is appalled by what you did on
that occasion." He said people who go to the cathedral were "entitled to peace and
tranquillity" and Courtney's behaviour was "Outrageous to Christians and others
using it. Your behaviour that day was quite incomprehensible," he added.