Yorkshire graffiti vandals who carried out a six-year £250,000 campaign against the railway have been jailed for eight months.
James Steward (27), Jack Rodgers (26) and Daniel Jay-Webster (25) appeared at York Crown Court yesterday, Tuesday, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal damage.
The court heard Steward, Rodgers and Jay-Webster were part of a graffiti ‘crew’ called NKA and that, between January 2003 and February 2009, they had worked together to daub graffiti – using the ‘tags’ of OGRE, HACK and TWOK – on trains throughout the north of England from Liverpool, Crewe, Buxton and Wigan to Harrogate, Skipton, Leeds and Wakefield.
Investigations by British Transport Police also revealed that damage had also been caused to trains and property in London, Bristol, continental Europe and even the Far East and Australia.
PC Tony McGibbon, who investigated for BTP, said: “These three vandals, as part of a prolific graffiti crew, are jointly responsible for around £250,000 of damage that was caused to trains and stations across the country between 2003 and 2009.
“They cared little for the impact their wanton destruction would have others and were only interested in enhancing and furthering their own reputations amongst the graffiti vandal fraternity”.
“Some people argue that graffiti is art and not vandalism, but when the graffiti is written or sprayed, without permission, on private or public property then it loses any artistic credibility and becomes a criminal act.”
British Transport Police were fully alerted to the activities of the three vandals when five men were disturbed spraying graffiti on a train in Harrogate in February 2009.
Two managed to escape, but three – Rodgers, of Bramble Grove, Poole in Wharfedale, an Italian man and a Portuguese man – were arrested at the scene. Steward, of Mitchell Close, Simpson Green, and Jay-Webster, of Stanningley Road, Armley were found to have been involved in this offence and were arrested at a later date.
The subsequent investigation found evidence which linked Steward, Rodgers and Jay-Webster to their tags and the damage to the trains.
Officers also traced their activities back to 2003 which included offences against Northern Rail, First Transpennine Express, Merseyrail, Midland Mainline, Virgin Trains and London Underground.
PC McGibbon added: “This case should serve as a stark warning to others who get their kicks from destroying the property of others.
“BTP takes graffiti extremely seriously and officers will use any tactics at their disposal to trace offenders and bring them to justice.
“The sentence handed out also clearly demonstrates that the wider criminal justice system recognises the damage caused by graffiti vandals and will bring strict sanctions to bear against anyone found guilty of the offences.”