A judge has suggested that two graffiti vandals who caused an estimated £14,000 in damage to trains and trackside equipment across West Yorkshire should be made to clean up similar anti-social behaviour as part of their community payback work.
The two teenagers, who took photos of their illegal activity and boasted on Facebook, were part of a so-called graffiti crew which carried out a spate of attacks at various locations including Huddersfield, Leeds, Brighouse, Bramley and Skipton.
Judge John Potter conceded that he had no control over what work David Broadbent, now 20, and 18-year-old Paul Scott would undertake but he said they may learn about the loss they caused to others by having to clear up similar damage.
“It seems to me, providing the environment is safe, there is no reason why unpaid work cannot be found for both of you to clear up the sort of mess that you have made,” Judge Potter told the defendants.
Broadbent, of Brook Street, Brighouse, admitted causing criminal damage to nine trains and five trackside locations resulting in a clean up bill of £14,000.
The offences were committed between August 2009 and March 2010 when he was then 18.
His co-defendant Scott, who was only 16 at the time, was involved in some of the same incidents as Broadbent and he eventually admitted damage charges relating to two trains and 13 trackside locations between January and July 2010.
The clean-up bill for Scott’s activities was said to be about £3,000.
Bradford Crown Court heard this morning that the duo were caught after a CCTV operator in Leeds city centre spotted them spraying their distinctive graffiti “tags” on a shop in Albion Street in April 2010.
Although they received a caution from the police for that incident a specialist British Transport Police investigator was able to link the tags of “Mesie” for Broadbent and “Croke” for Scott to other vandal attacks.
Prosecutor John Topham said the pair were arrested in July 2010 police found spray paints, drawings and graffiti magazines in Broadbent’s home.
His computer was examined and investigators found images of the graffiti which had been shown to others.
“There were also Facebook messages between him and Scott and other people involved in this sub-culture, as it were, boasting about what work they had done and exchanging experiences,” said Mr Topham.
“In some cases the defendants actually appeared in the photographs they had taken immediately after they had put graffiti on lineside equipment.”
When Scott’s home in Tyersal Avenue, Bradford, was searched there were more than 100 graffiti images on his lap-top including over 80 bearing the “Croke” tag.
Broadbent was today sentenced to 10 months custody, but Judge Potter said he was able suspend that term for 18 months after taking account of his guilty pleas and health difficulties.
But he said Broadbent would have to do the maximum 300 hours unpaid work for the community.
Scott, who now has a graphic design business producing flyers and marketing material, was given a 12-month community order which includes 150 hours unpaid work and compensation order of £500.
Lawyer Adam Walker said Scott “wholeheartedly agreed” with the judge’s indication that clearing up graffiti should be part of his unpaid work.
Judge Potter also told the pair that they would be subject to five-year anti-social behaviour orders which prevent them from going onto railway property which is not open to the public and bans them from possessing various types of paint, dyes and permanent markers in public places.
The judge told the defendants it was quite wrong to think that graffiti spraying did not cause any harm.
“There is significant harm caused by this sort of activity,” said Judge Potter.
“It is not in any sense a victimless crime.”
The judge said there was loss caused to the people who had to clean up the damage, inconvenience caused by trains being out of service and potential danger from vandals entering areas they were not supposed to go into.
Judge Potter warned Broadbent that he was reserving any breaches of his suspended sentence order to himself and he faced being locked up if he failed to undertake the unpaid work or re-offended.