Man gets prison for failed theft of Magna Carta in England

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 file photo, the Salisbury Cathedral 1215 copy of the Magna Carta is installed in a glass display cabinet marking the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215, in Salisbury, England. A judge has on Friday, July 10, 2020 sentenced a man to four years for attempting to steal Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta. Salisbury Crown Court Judge Richard Parkes sentenced Mark Royden, describing the failed theft as a “determined attempt on a document of huge historical importance. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, FILE)

LONDON — A U.K. judge has sentenced a man to four years for attempting to steal one of the original copies of the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral in England.

Mark Royden, from Canterbury, Kent, was convicted Friday of using a hammer to try to smash the security case holding the document at Salisbury Cathedral on October 25, 2018.

Royden failed to break the protective glass, and was tackled moments later by tourists and cathedral staff.

“Magna Carta is a document of huge importance to our country and many other countries that share our democratic traditions,” Judge Richard Parkes said in passing the sentence. “This was a determined attempt on a document of huge historical importance.”

The judge praised the “courageous” acts of visitors and staff members who apprehended Royden including tourists Matthew and Alexis Delcambre of New Iberia, Louisiana.

Matthew Delcambre told The Associated Press at the time of the theft attempt that he and his wife were sightseeing in the southwestern English city when she saw a man coming out of the disabled persons bathroom with a hammer.

After she tried to alert others, Delcambre and other bystanders banded together to try to hold the thief back behind the doors of the cathedral’s Chapter House.

When the thief pushed past them, Delcambre gave chase into an outer courtyard. He grabbed the man’s arm near the courtyard gate and knocked away the hammer. A church employee tackled Royden and held him down.

“It wasn’t me by myself,” Delcambre said. “It was completely a group effort.”

Defense attorney Nicholas Cotter said a car accident in 1991 had “tragically” affected Royden, causing him brain damage and leading him to be the subject of a court protection order.

Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta is one of the four surviving specimens of the 1215 charter that established the principle that the king is subject to the law. It is considered the founding document of English law and civil liberties and influenced the creation of the U.S. Constitution.