‘Street artists’ given suspended sentences over Dublin graffiti

‘Yogi’ and ‘Robit’ caught on CCTV outside Garda station

Graffiti pictured along Creighton Street and Windmill Lane, Dublin in 2008. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Graffiti pictured along Creighton Street and Windmill Lane, Dublin in 2008. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 19:44

Two men have avoided going to jail after they graffitied trams, train carriages and buses causing over €32,000 worth of damage.

Charlie Magaharan (18) and Jamie Johnson (20) were each given a two-year suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Magaharan of Monalea Park, Firhouse and Johnson of Priory Walk, Whitehall Road in Terenure, both pleaded guilty to four charges of criminal damage on dates September 2011 and January 2012.

The court heard that the pair, who called themselves Yogi and Robit, believed there would be public interest in their street art and had intended to compile and sell a two-hour DVD of graffiti.

Gardaí­ secured search warrants for their home after they were captured on CCTV spraying in six-foot tall letters “ROBIT BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME” on the perimeter wall of a Garda station.

Their computers were confiscated and a number of photographs of graffiti on DART carriages, LUAS trams and Dublin Buses were discovered saved on the hard drives.

Both made full admissions after their arrest and Johnson said in interview that he thought he was a good enough street artist that the general public would be interested in seeing his work.

Neither has any previous convictions and they have not come to garda attention since.

Garda Niall Kennedy told Vincent Heneghan BL, prosecuting, that although they were wearing scarves and hats when they sprayed the wall, they were nominated as culprits following a Garda tip-off.

Gardaí later spoke to Dublin Bus, Iarnrod Eireann and Veolia Transport, which runs the Luas service, and discovered that buses, carriages and trams in Ringsend, Connolly Station and the Red Cow had all been spray painted with the words “Robit”, “evoke” and “Yogi”. The estimated total damage caused was €32,725.

Elva Duffy BL, defending Johnson, said her client had been “deeply shocked” when he realised the damage caused and offered his sincere apologies during interview.

She said Johnson is now working for free on a photography placement and understands that his behaviour was criminal.

Ms Duffy said Johnson had a difficult childhood and has significant responsibilities within his family as he cares for both his grandfather and his mother who have health difficulties.

Anne-Marie Lawlor BL, defending Magaharan, said her client was a “particularly immature 17-year-old” who believed the graffiti was “some form of artistic expression”.

Ms Lawlor told Judge Mary Ellen Ring that Magaharan had written a letter of apology to Iarnrod Eireann.

She submitted that her client was “a decent young man” whose actions had been out of character, and that he is now doing a plumbing apprenticeship.

Judge Ring sentenced both men to two years in prison but suspended the sentences entirely on the condition that they keep the peace and be of good behaviour for two years.

She directed that the total sum of €1,600 which had been brought to court by the two men be paid to the Fr Peter McVerry Trust.

Judge Ring accepted that “youthful enthusiasm” may have blinded the men to the seriousness of what they were doing, and noted that both have a promising future.

She said Magaharan had completed a restorative justice programme during which he had used his painting skills in a productive way by painting a mural in a children’s playroom at a women’s refuge.

The judge accepted that Johnson had a challenging early life but said that at the age of 20, he can no longer rely on the difficulties of his youth to excuse him.

She said Johnson clearly has an “artistic leaning”.

The judge accepted that both now realise that their damage to property has caused significant financial loss, the cost of which will ultimately be absorbed by the public.

“You are the reason, perhaps, why when you get on a bus in the future and have to pay more,” she concluded.