(RNS) — Three British pagans have lost their High Court appeal to overturn their convictions for breaching protections at Stonehenge, the iconic stone monument aligned with the movements of the sun on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England.
Lawyers for Lisa Mead, Maryam Halcrow and Angel Grace argued the trio had a “reasonable excuse” to enter a restricted area at the prehistoric monument, based on their religious beliefs.
Mead, a druid, has said she needs access to the stones to “charge her crystals to work in healing,” according to the Evening Standard. Halcrow, described by the Swindon Advertiser as a “solitary hedge witch,” reportedly told police she was there to “worship at her temple.”
Mead and Halcrow crossed a rope barrier and “no entry” sign to enter the stone circle on Feb. 4, 2018, according to a report in the Evening Standard.
On a second occasion, Mead, Halcrow and Grace, who also identifies as a druid, unlawfully entered the circle on May 6, 2018.
They were convicted in November 2018, which they appealed, eventually reaching the High Court. Lawyers claimed the convictions infringed on their freedoms of religion, expression and lawful protest.
The Evening Standard reported that the High Court ruling Wednesday (March 10) acknowledged the women’s “religious beliefs in paganism, druidism and ‘light working.’” But, it said, unrestricted access to the site “would inevitably have an adverse effect on Stonehenge to the detriment of current and future generations.”
English Heritage, which oversees Stonehenge, describes it as “a wonder of the world, a spiritual place and a source of inspiration.”
During general admission hours, entry to Stonehenge is ticketed and the stone circle is off-limits. Visitors are not allowed to touch the stones.
The World Heritage Site also hosts “managed open access days” for the summer and winter solstice and autumnal and vernal equinox, and small groups can reserve access to the stone circle outside of general admission hours. Mead has objected to the “party mood” of open access days, and Grace to the “prohibitive” cost of reserving the site, according to the Swindon Advertiser.
Mead, Halcrow and Grace were given conditional discharges following their initial convictions, according to the BBC.