November 26, 2013

Paramilitary murals are criminal damage

In the Irish News Newton Emerson explained the law governing the painting of gable walls. He said:
"There is certainly a case to be made that the mural glorifies terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2006 or encourages crime under the Serious Crime Act 2007. But really there is no need to resort to the kind of New Labour anti-terror legislation that has Willie Frazer threatening to dress up as Abu Hamza. Defacing a wall without the owner's permission is a good old fashioned offence of criminal damage, punishable by up to 14 years in jail. 
The law on criminal damage includes an interesting twist. Damaging property with a "reckless" disregard to endangering others is punishable by life imprisonment, even if you are the property owner or have the property owner's permission. This part of the law is intended to cover arson but may apply to anything. Is it mortally reckless to paint a UVF gunman on a wall in east Belfast under present circumstances? A good barrister should be able to make a case for it 
However we are straying back into New Labour territory. A simple charge of criminal damage should suffice, helped by the fact that defaced walls are generally owned by the Housing Executive or Housing Association, so "permission" to paint them cannot be obtained as easily as it would from an intimidated householder. Failing that, there are the planning regulations to consider."

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