Wirral graffiti vandals sentenced following Operation Doodle investigation

A group of graffiti vandals who caused an estimated £2million of damage to hundreds of properties and the rail network have been sentenced.

Eight individuals, including one with a first class fine arts degree, have been sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court receiving a combined total of nine years and one month in suspended jail sentences, and 1,200 hours of unpaid community work, for committing criminal damage and conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

Liverpool City Council had worked alongside the British Transport Police, Merseyside Police, Network Rail, and Merseyrail to find the perpetrators, in the city’s biggest anti-graffiti investigation, dubbed Operation Doodle.

The group, which included three other individuals – two who were previously sentenced for a combined total of six years and 10 months and the other to be sentenced next month – had been defacing buildings and structures on an industrial scale since at least 2016, using a number of tags.

The vandals had even tagged prominent buildings such as the Marina Dalglish Cancer Centre and a multiple number of listed buildings such as Liverpool Magistrates Court, the former ABC Cinema, the walls around Liverpool Cathedral and even a police station on Copperas Hill in the city centre.

The crew also indiscriminately daubed railway stations, trains, children’s play equipment, vehicles, bins, street columns, CCTV poles, walls, parking meters, roller shutters, bridges, phone boxes, and cash machines.

On at least one occasion 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.

The City Council has already spent more than £100,000 cleaning up many of the largest tags; if every tag had been removed it would cost in the region of £1million, with a further £1million of estimated cost to the rail network.

Kyle Smith, 30, of Birkenhead and Aiden Williams, 32, of Birkenhead were the first to be prosecuted, in 2020, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal damage. Their vandalism to trains cost Merseyrail almost £180,000 to clean.

The pair have since been convicted again for conspiracy to commit criminal damage as well as for a host of breaches of their 10 year Criminal Behaviour Orders. Having originally been given a 12 month suspended jail sentence, Mr Smith has subsequently been sent to prison for 42 months. Mr Williams, originally jailed for 16 months, was convicted again for 36 months.

The eight individuals who were sentenced today are:

  • Jack Lowry – 32, of Wallasey – Sentence: 18 months suspended for 18 months, 25 days rehabilitation days and 200 hours of unpaid work
  • Michael Martin – 27, of Liverpool – Sentence: 15 months, suspended for 18 months, 10 days rehab and 200 hours unpaid work
  • Sami Al-Zinati – 34, of Liverpool – (Conspiracy to destroy/damage property) – Sentence: 12 months, suspended for 18 months, 20 days rehab order and 200 hours unpaid work
  • Felix Pearson – 29, of London – Sentence: 8 months suspended for 18 months, 10 days rehab order and 100 hours unpaid work
  • Daniel Rooney – 34, of Liverpool – Sentence: 17 months suspended for 18 months, five rehab days and 200 hours unpaid work
  • Joshua Maguire – 27, of Manchester – Sentence: 16 months, suspended for 18 months, 20 rehab days and 200 hours of unpaid work
  • Adam Metcalfe – 33, of Tranmere – Sentence: 15 months suspended for 18 months, 20 days rehab and electronic curfew for six months (8pm until 6am at his home address)
  • Charlie O’Brien – 28, of Worcester Park, Sutton – Sentence: 8 months, suspended for 18 months, 20 days rehab order and 100 hours of unpaid work

George Dimech, 30, of London, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal damage. He will be sentenced on 11 December.

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.”

Image: LCC

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news