A MAN whom a judge ordered to remove anti-Irish Sea Border graffiti in Larne has been put on Probation for a year.
Neill Magill (28), of Herbert Avenue in Larne, previously had sentencing deferred to await the outcome of his clean-up of a wall close to the town's PSNI Station.
The defendant was back at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday via a video link from his solicitor's office and it was heard the graffiti is now off the wall.
Magill admitted two charges – causing criminal damage to a wall and also possessing spray paint with intent to damage property at Hope Street in Larne.
The offences occurred on March 22 this year.
A prosecution lawyer told the court that around 8.50pm on March 22 a police patrol exiting Hope Street saw the defendant "spraying something" on a nearby wall.
The words "All Irish Sea Border staff..." were found written on a wall.
Magill made off and when he was caught he was concealing a tin of spray paint which he had thrown on the ground.
He didn't comply with police and had to be restrained. A spray paint lid was found on him and two tins of spray paint were found during a search of his home.
When interviewed he made full admissions.
The court heard the defendant had a previously clear record.
A defence lawyer told an earlier court it was one incident of “anti-Irish Sea border graffiti”.
At court in June, District Judge Nigel Broderick had said if Magill cleaned the wall it would be taken into consideration and adjourned the case until Thursday.
At Thursday's Court a defence barrister said there were pictures of the "remedial works" which were then viewed by the judge.
A prosecutor also viewed the pictures and accepted the wall had been cleaned.
The judge said: "This was some sort of protest. It says 'All Irish Sea Border staff...'. I take it he was interrupted, he didn't get a chance to finish this message. He ran off".
The defence barrister said that was "probably for the best" and the judge asked what the completed message would have said.
The defence lawyer said the defendant had not told him "but it would be fair to infer that it was something threatening is probably the accurate way to put it, there could be no other logical reason".
The barrister added: "It is a very serious matter for that reason. It is not sectarian as such but political of course. There were issues around staffing in terms of the Larne port and staff being withdrawn.
"There is no question whatsover it is a serious matter. Whether he understood that at the time or not is highly debatable. It seems he didn't understand just how serious this kind of graffiti was being taken".
He said Magill was "very sorry" for what he had done.
The barrister said a pre-sentence report showed the defendant "hasn't had his sorrows to seek" and said Probation would be "very useful".
Judge Broderick said he was imposing Probation "now he has cleaned up the wall".
He told the defendant: "This is a very foolish thing to do, irrespective of your political opinion, that is not the issue, the issue is criminal damage.
"Thankfully, you have rectified that and cleaned the wall and no doubt the injured party is glad of that".
In light of Magill's previously clear record, the judge said he was putting him on Probation for a year which "might address these issues and hopefully prevent you re-offending".
At least two other men from the Larne area have been charged in connection with anti-Irish Sea Border graffiti in the town relating to an incident in early February this year.
During those cases it was heard there have been numerous incidents of such graffiti appearing in Larne and other parts of Northern Ireland.
EU customs rules are enforced at ports including Larne as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol - the section of the Brexit deal which keeps Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods.
Many Unionists and loyalists have expressed strong opposition to the Protocol and there have been heightened tensions in towns like Larne.