Judge says 'Irish Sea Border' graffiti men could be ordered to mount 'clean-up' in Larne

Judge says 'Irish Sea Border' graffiti men could be ordered to mount 'clean-up' in Larne

A JUDGE said two men convicted of an 'anti-Irish Sea Border' graffiti blitz in Larne could be ordered into a 'clean-up squad' as part of their punishment.

Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer was speaking at Ballymena Magistrates Court as he convicted Mitchell Leeburn (26), of Deerpark Road, Kilwaughter, and William Donnell (22), of Waterfall Road, Raloo, of six charges of criminal damage which they had denied.

Previously the men had pleaded guilty to two charges of criminal damage regarding graffiti in Larne in February, 2021.

The judge also convicted the two men of a charge of possessing spray paint with intent to damage property.

An earlier court heard there had been "spray painting around the Larne area to do with the Protocol".

Defence lawyers had argued linking the two men to graffiti at all the locations was "circumstantial".

A defence barrister said social media messages showed there appeared to be "others" involved.

The court heard a Facebook Messenger post from Donnell to Leeburn said: 'Everybody is doing it tonight, lol, if you want to join the fun'.

Judge Mateer said in connection with the charges before the court there was no evidence to show others had taken part and the Facebook Messenger post "may or may not be true".

He said the prosecution case was that Leeburn and Donnell were "found participating in a joint enterprise" where graffiti was being sprayed on a shop wall in Larne "on a night a number of other premises were hit in the same way".

The court heard graffiti included the phrases 'All bets are off' and 'Larne says no to the Irish Sea Border'.

Judge Mateer said both men "ran away when challenged" by police.

He said he didn't accept Leeburn's claim that he was "simply out for a dander" nor Donnell's explanation that he had paint for "spraying cars".

The judge said he was "prepared to draw an adverse inference against each defendant through their failure to account and testify on their own behalf" in court.

He said he was "satisfied they were both engaged in a joint enterprise in the damage and that they are guilty of all of the offences".

Judge Mateer added: "It's clearly a case that attracted a lot of  media interest at the time".

The cases have been adjourned to the end of April for pre-sentence reports.

The judge said "a good punishment would be to get them on a work squad cleaning up graffiti in the area" but he said that would be a matter for the sentencing judge.

  • Main picture: Larne.