Standby for a bit of a rant at inappropriate sentencing.
Artist unknown – view LARGE
London tagger, bomber and graffiti artist 10FOOT has been sentenced to 26 months in prison for a long list of acts of graffiti, also known as crimes. On release, he has a weird 5 year ASBO stopping him carrying “unset paint, permanent marker pen, shoe dye, permanent ink, grinding stone, glass cutting equipment, glass etching solution or paste” or from entering train yards.
That sentence is crass beyond belief. As balance between punishing a specific individual and deterring the rest, there no doubt 10foot is suffering way beyond what would be reasonably due him. 26 months banged up is just irrational, disproportionate, unjustifiable and quite capable of having a life-destroying impact.
Do you believe society is capable of electing representatives to create laws that are then used fairly by the judiciary? You can’t justify believing that when you look at the stupidity of punishments like this.
For bringing it to my attention, cap is doffed to Joeppo and the London Vandal. You can read the full list of 25 acts of “criminal damage” 10FOOT pleaded guilty to, from the BTP press release on London Vandal here.
Looking at the list, not one of the criminal acts involves rape, dangerous driving, assault, theft, fraud, public indecency, threatening behaviour or racism. They are merely making a mark on walls. So some of those marks are on trains and they are private property, that’s a crime and crimes get punished after a “guilty” verdict but there is no way our world is going to be a better place for having 10foot locked up for 26 months.
The vast majority of the acts relate to trackside shit. Now if there ever was a kind of property that the word “marginalised” was invented for, it is on the whole the kind of spots that 10foot has been bombing. The clean up costs cited in the press release have to be fabricated as there is no way that any sane individual would want to spend 31 grand (about 52,000 dollars) creating buff coloured rectangles where 10foot has done his artwork. Quite what goes into those cost estimates (railway overheads?) we’ll never know but you can employ a feck of a lot of painters for that amount.
Why are those costs so high? To make us gasp, to smear some kind of shock factor to wave over the excessive prison sentence handed down. The costs are quoted to the nearest 37p or 24p which is so ludicrous it must be just done for comic effect.
It seems pretty clear that BTP have gone after 10foot motivated by vengeance, by a vandal headhunters blood lust, they must have been burning with a crazed ambition to make a name for themselves (bloody hell, that’s close to graffiti) and to obtain a huge sentence guaranteed to make the press. You can just see them high fiving, funny handshaking and off out celebrating on hearing the sentence.
In the two photos accompanying this post you can see the name Saycell, it’s not difficult to find information on the internet regarding Colin Saysell of the British Transport Police and his obsession with making examples of some high profile graffiti artists. The Fuck the Fuckers piece also rants about “fuck jizz wally” (SIC), Jeremy “Jez” Walley is also BTP and it is he who gloats over the fate of 10FOOT in the press release:
“[the] vandalism was nothing more than wanton damage that costs thousands of pounds to clean up”
Well quite, “nothing more than”, so how does that suggest 26months is the appropriate punishment?
It also seems way over the top to take this crime to Crown Court. This can only have been to add a veneer of apparent gravity to the offences and to give BTP the big stage for their performance.
Did the judge have discretion to impose a more appropriate, less damaging punishment? We don’t know the technical legal answer to that but surely some serious community service perhaps coupled with that ASBO would have been less harmful. That last word is key in our minds, harmful, this punishment is likely to cause great harm to 10foot yet he has not actually caused harm to any individual anywhere.
Do you think the experience of sending 10foot inside is possibly going to “improve” him? 10foot is personable, affable, articulate and socially is not particularly attention seeking. After 2 years inside he is likely to pick up a shit load of new skills and attitudes that may make him a completely different proposition.
Of course, if he signs up for all the basket weaving and art classes the irony is when he is released he won’t be able to buy art materials unless someone else carries it home for him.
We are alarmed to read in the press release that his girlfriend’s house was raided. In the BTP press release they say the raids yielded photos of him fraternising with other known graffiti “vandals”. Well bollocks, Graffoto can be seen fraternising most weeks with some well known graffiti vandals and we’re not aware that that was a crime.
Just going back to the 26 months inside, how can this possibly proportionate or appropriate when a very cursory search on the net yields sentences such as 12 months for multiple stabbing and 24 weeks SUSPENDED for careless driving in the hit and run killing of a cyclist. In the list of headboard notches displayed in BTP’s list of press releases there is a case this month of a man sentenced to 1 year imprisonment for raping an 86 year old woman travelling alone in a train carriage. Compare the horror of that crime, the impact on the woman and her family, the heightened fear engendered in her friends and other elderly people and solitary travellers with the nature of 10foot’s campaign of quietly sneaking about and writing his name. There won’t be a single individaul who said “my life is perceptibly worse after that piece of graffiti” yet 10Foot is doing twice as much as a rapist. This may be law but it is not justice.
BTP, The crown court, society at large, you should be ashamed of yourselves. FREE 10FOOT.
After a recount, this is Graffoto’s 200th post and we are proud that it is about such an important and serious matter
Broken Windows Footnote:
As a curiousity, in doing a bit of googling for this post, we came across a statistical analysis in the US which proves there is very little link between incidents of graffiti and incidents of other forms of crime – despite what the authors of the web page say. You can see generally from the graph plots that things are pretty scattered and you’ll be greatly puzzled by the low R-squared coefficients which suggests the correlation between the two graphed parameters is tiny, you need a number close to 1 to indicate a close relationship between occurrence of graffiti and occurrence of other crimes and the values in the plots are no higher than 0.26. And that’s after they removed some data which would have made R squared even lower. Check it out here.