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'Batman' freed after palace stunt


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Man dressed as Batman protests on Buckingham Palace ledge.
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LONDON, England -- A 32-year-old man who staged a protest on a Buckingham Palace balcony dressed as Batman has been released on police bail.

Jason Hatch was ordered Tuesday to return to a central London police station in December.

He was released along with 48-year-old Dave Pyke, who took part in Monday's stunt dressed as the superhero's sidekick Robin, after being questioned by police.

"The 48-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting and the 32-year-old on suspicion of criminal damage," spokeswoman for London's Metropolitan Police told the UK's Press Association.

Hatch, a member of the campaign group Fathers 4 Justice, is accused of climbing over the walls of the queen's London residence and staging a five-hour protest on a ledge.

Pyke is alleged to have assisted Hatch in the stunt.

The incident, which reportedly was meant to draw attention to fathers' right in child access cases, has prompted criticism of security measures at Buckingham Palace.

London's top law enforcement officer has demanded an inquiry into how someone could evade supposedly tight security to stage such a protest at the palace.

Police Chief Sir John Stevens said "the intruder was readily identified as performing a publicity stunt but if he had been carrying a gun or a bomb he would probably have been shot," according to a statement Monday.

"He said that the CCTV (close-circuit television monitoring) and the alarms worked and the police response was speedy but nevertheless it was unacceptable that the wall had been scaled and he would ensure that whatever was necessary would be done in relation to improved security."

Police said no members of the royal family were in the palace but admitted the protester should not have been able to scale the perimeter fence with a ladder and climb onto the high-profile balcony.

Former Buckingham Palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter said officials would be seriously embarrassed by Monday's incident.

He told Sky News: "They will be very seriously embarrassed by what has happened, and they will be looking at ways now to really tighten up on possibl

y even public access, and make it even harder to get in.

"But they've made it hard already, so how much harder they can make it in the light of this I don't really know."

Fathers 4 Justice said Hatch scaled the palace's outer fence with the help of Pyke. Meanwhile, other protesters distracted the attention of armed police by climbing on the front gate.

The group said police had threatened to shoot Pyke unless he got down from the fence, "which we think is unacceptable because this is a peaceful, non-violent protest."

Hatch then climbed up on the palace balcony used by the royals for ceremonial occasions.

Standing on a ledge to the right hand side of the balcony, about 8 meters (25 feet) above the ground, he unfurled a banner that read: "Super dads of fathers 4 justice."

Also on the banner were the words: "Fighting for your right to your kids."

After spending five hours trying to persuade the protester to come down, police on a cherry picker finally removed him at 7.20 p.m.

Royal security was reviewed after a Daily Mirror reporter got a job at Buckingham Palace as a servant before U.S. President George W. Bush stayed there during a state visit in November last year.

Stand-up comedian Aaron Barschak also highlighted lax security by gate-crashing Prince William's 21st birthday party at Windsor in June last year.

Fathers 4 Justice, which says Britain's courts are biased against fathers in divorce cases involving child access, are notorious for their publicity stunts.

Its attack on Prime Minister Tony Blair in the House of Commons four months ago caused a massive security alert amid fears of a terrorist attack and prompted changes to access rules for parliament.


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