The sentencing of a group of graffiti vandals who caused an estimated £2 million in damage to hundreds of properties and the rail network is welcomed by Liverpool City Council.
Eight people, including one with a first-class fine arts degree, were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court to a total of nine years and one month in suspended jail time and 1,200 hours of unpaid community service for criminal damage and conspiracy to commit criminal damage.
In the city’s largest anti-graffiti investigation, dubbed Operation Doodle, the City Council collaborated with the British Transport Police, Merseyside Police, Network Rail, and Merseyrail to find the perpetrators.
The group, which included three other people – two who were previously sentenced for a total of six years and ten months and one who will be sentenced next month – had been defacing buildings and structures on a large scale since at least 2016, using a variety of tags.
The vandals had even tagged prominent buildings like the Marina Dalglish Cancer Centre and a slew of listed structures like Liverpool Magistrates Court, the former ABC Cinema, the walls surrounding Liverpool Cathedral, and even a police station on Copperas Hill in the city centre.
The crew also sprayed railway stations, trains, playground equipment, vehicles, bins, street columns, CCTV poles, walls, parking metres, roller shutters, bridges, phone boxes, and cash machines indiscriminately.
Some of the members walked down Bold Street in the city centre with a diamond cutter and cut names into the windows of the Tesco shop on at least one occasion.
The City Council has already spent more than £100,000 cleaning up many of the largest tags; removing every tag would cost around £1 million, with a further £1 million estimated cost to the rail network.
Kyle Smith, 30, of Ribble Street, Birkenhead, and Aiden Williams, 32, of Cleveland Street, Birkenhead, were the first to face charges after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal damage in 2020. Their train vandalism cost Merseyrail nearly £180,000 to clean up.
Since then, the pair has been convicted of conspiracy to commit criminal damage as well as a slew of violations of their 10-year Criminal Behaviour Orders. Mr Smith was originally sentenced to a 12-month suspended jail term, but was later sentenced to 42 months in prison. Mr Williams was sentenced to 36 months in prison after being sentenced to 16 months in the first place.
The eight people sentenced today are as follows:
Jack Lowry, 32, of Wallasey’s Rostherne Avenue
Sentence: 18-month suspended sentence, 25-day rehabilitation period, and 200 hours of unpaid work
Michael Martin, 27, of Liverpool’s Bold Street
Sentence: 15 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, 10 days of rehabilitation, and 200 hours of unpaid work
Sami Al-Zinati, 34, of Mindale Road, Liverpool – (Property destruction/damage conspiracy)
Sentence: 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, 20 days in rehab, and 200 hours of unpaid work
Felix Pearson, 29, of London’s Peacock Street
Sentence: 8 months in prison suspended for 18 months, 10 days in rehab, and 100 hours of unpaid work
Daniel Rooney, 34, of Liverpool’s Upper Stanhope Street
Sentence: 17 months in prison suspended for 18 months, five days of rehabilitation, and 200 hours of unpaid work
Joshua Maguire, 27, of Manchester’s Holly Fold
Sentence: 16 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, 20 days of rehabilitation, and 200 hours of unpaid work
Adam Metcalfe, 33, of Tranmere’s Church Road
Sentence: 15 months in prison suspended for 18 months, 20 days in rehab, and a six-month electronic curfew (8 p.m. to 6 a.m. at his home address).
Charlie O’Brien, 28, of Browning Avenue, Worcester Park, Sutton, was arrested.
Sentence: 8 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, 20 days in rehab, and 100 hours of unpaid labour
George Dimech, 30, of Canterbury House, London, pled guilty to criminal damage conspiracy. On December 11th, he will be sentenced.
Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said:
“These graffiti vandals have scarred Liverpool. This is not street-art. This is mindless vandalism. And the cost to the public purse to clean it up has been astronomical.
“I welcome the sentencing and I’d like to thank our Neighbourhood Enforcement officers who have worked tirelessly with British Transport Police, Merseyside Police and Merseyrail on Operation Doodle.
“It’s going to take years for us to eventually remove every piece of tagging but I hope this case serves as a warning for anyone thinking of doing something similar.
“These vandals thought they could get away it with. They didn’t. We won’t tolerate tagging in Liverpool and we’ll take every step possible to prosecute those who deface public and private property.”