Magistrates were right to let vandals be identified

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WE are pleased to see Fareham magistrates decide that two teenagers who wreaked thousands of pounds worth of damage in a stupid spraying blitz in the area should be identified to the public.

As a matter of course, teenagers appearing before a youth court are granted anonymity. We agree with this in most cases, on the basis that people who transgress at a young and perhaps impressionable age deserve a chance to change their ways without being the subject of publicity.

But this sort of justice does fly in the face of the public’s right to know who has transgressed against them and perhaps there should be more occasions on which magistrates sitting as a youth court exercise their power to lift reporting restrictions in more serious cases.

This was surely one such case. The two defendants both admitted criminal damage by spray-painting their personal symbols – known as tags – on public and private property.

This was no harmless prank, but an act of wanton vandalism and the cost of cleaning up the damage was not surprisingly substantial.

In these days of financial belt-tightening, there will be many Fareham council tax payers upset to learn that £13,000 of their money has had to spent clearing up the mess. It goes without saying that the cash could have been far better spent elsewhere.

We applaud Fareham Borough Council and the police for organising the joint operation to track down and prosecute those responsible for the rash of vandalism.

And we agree wholeheartedly with Councillor Arthur Mandry, who is responsible for personal protection issues, when he says: ‘This is £13,000 down the pan. Why should local authorities and private companies have to fund the clean-up? Graffiti is a damned nuisance. I hope it’s a salutary lesson for them.’

We hope too that the young men in question will have learned their lesson well.

The public deserves to know who they are.

It is for them now to make a conscious decision to mend their ways.

areham West Sergeant Aaron Freemantle said: ‘Hopefully this will send out a message that it’s not OK to tag and that if you vandalise like this you will be punished.

‘It’s not pleasant – the extent of the damage in this case was quite extensive and it does effect people’s lives.’