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Chris Chalkley Found Guilty of Criminal Damage: Ordered to Pay £200 Compensation and £750 Costs.

March 15, 2010

Chris Chalkley stood trial on Friday 12th March, 2010, accused of criminal damage, having painted a sign that said “Welcome to Stokes Croft, Cultural Quarter, Conservation area, Outdoor Gallery” on the front of the 5102 building, which is a gated community at the bottom of Stokes Croft. Having pleaded not guilty, he was represented by Ellie Hutchison of 1 Pump Court and Miriam Andrews of Fisher Meredith.

The case for the prosecution was that actual criminal damage had been causedto 5102. Mr. James Lang, property manager of 5102, gave testimony that the damage amounted to between £150 and £200. Denise James, project manager of Clean and Green of Bristol City Council, was chief prosecution witness, and had advised Mr. Lang that he should contact the Police.

The case for the defence was twofold. The first line of defence was that there was no criminal damage. The sign was well executed, and was part of an ongoing project that had raised the profile of the area, had increased economic activity , and that had improved the area as a whole, and therefore , by extension, had a positive impact on 5102, and so could not be construed as damage.

The second part of the defence was one of “Lawful Excuse”

5.2 A person charged with an offence to which this section applies shall… be treated for those purposes as having a lawful excuse

(a) if at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence he believed that the person or persons whom he believed to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question had so consented, or would have so consented to it if he or they had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances

(3) For the purposes of this section it is immaterial whether a belief is justified or not if it is honestly held.

The defence argued that Mr. Chalkley had an honest belief that he would have gained consent, citing the similar sign on Dighton Street that had been painted without permission, and had resulted in PRSC earning a £500 commission on the other side of the street.

The District Judge listened to testimony of George Ferguson, architect, and Henry Shaftoe, Senior Lecturer in Urban Design at UWE. Jon Rogers, Ward Councillor for Ashley Ward testified as a character witness. Despite their positive testimony which sought to place the act in the context of the cultural resurgence of Stokes Croft, the judge chose to apply what he saw as the strict letter of the law, and convicted Mr. Chalkley, awarding £200 compensation to 5102, and Court costs of £750 against the plaintiff.

Below: The end of Dighton Street with Sign and £500 commission

Below: Evening Post article 13/3/10


Below: Graffiti on 5102, some of which was present on the day Mr. Chalkley painted his sign, and was still present six months later.

Below: Glass bricks on 5102, that had been broken for at least three years…

Below: The glass bricks are now repaired, and the passageway repainted…

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. Richard Craven permalink
    March 15, 2010 12:00 pm

    “District judge Maurice Champion said ‘it was clearly criminal damage’. He added that Chalkely had ‘displayed arrogance that he knew best’.

    This is one of those occasions on which the law has got it spot on.

    Chalkley speaking after the trial:- ‘I am very grateful for all the support I have received from the community’.

    Yet again, Chalkley is implying that the community supports his actions. He has no basis for this supposition. If he so wishes, he should express his gratitude for the support he has received from a minority of the community.

    • March 15, 2010 7:23 pm

      When he says community does he mean the community he lives in or Stokes Croft?
      Perhaps he should focus his actions on st Werburghs?

  2. March 15, 2010 7:17 pm

    Richard Craven, I am a member of that community and I support Mr Chalkley’s actions. Also, you state ‘If he so wishes, he should express his gratitude for the support he has received from a minority of the community.’ How do you suggest he does this? My vote’s for a big stencil saying ‘thanks’ on the side of a building somewhere. I wonder, do you work for 5102 or the council?
    Furthermore, if that really cost between £150-200 to paint over, I intend to get into painting and decorating. It’s a pretty ugly shade, but I reckon I could get that paint mixed for about a tenner, and paintbrushes are pretty cheap… What a scam! Perhaps the owners of 5102 should be taking their contractors to court for theft…

  3. March 15, 2010 8:03 pm

    I wholeheartedly support Mr Chalkeys actions as well. I’ve come into contact with him recently through his good work for the Stokes Croft area through the China, which I hasten to add is good work. Yep, he should’ve asked but this is a case of people getting heavy handed, I mean…the police, come on.

    Mr Craven, if you bother to go out into the stokes croft area and ask the locals what they think of the piece of graffiti art he did, I think you will find your viewpoint is in fact in the minority. But you probably don’t even live anywhere near the area, screw you and the horse you rode in on.

  4. old misery guts permalink
    March 15, 2010 8:21 pm

    Let’s face it, the grass roots and direct action type stuff that’s going on in Stokes Croft, much of which is championed by Chris Chalkley, is a direct threat to the likes of the nob heads at the council and the rozzers, who increasingly see their role as one of telling us all how to live our lives in public and in private. What a bizarre and irrational act by the council who, on the one hand, make great noises about the marvellous Banksy (public referendum on whether his act of criminal damage should stay or go, remember?), and on the other act to stifle or criminalize anyone trying to improve an area that has been criminally neglected for decades. Bizarre, but not that surprising really. If they really gave a flying fuck about Stokes Croft, they would be spending the £700k plus ring fenced for improving the buildings there, rather than sitting on it till it’s too late and it has to be given back to the lottery/reabsorbed into the Chief Exec’s bonus fund or whatever. Guillotine on Turbo Island, let the head roll, put ’em on spikes outside Westmoreland House – anyone fancy joining me in revolutionary style knitting?

    • stokescroft permalink*
      March 15, 2010 8:27 pm

      I spoke to Kingsley Fulbrook, Conservation Area Officer for the Croft, and it seems that BCC are trying to get out of their contract with the Lottery Fund, in order to cut costs… Looks like that money will never be allocated.. So it does look like it is up to us if we want to sort out our own area…

      Chris Chalkley

  5. March 15, 2010 8:52 pm

    Turbo island it is then! lol

  6. March 15, 2010 10:47 pm

    I support Chris in his efforts to make Stokes Croft a more colourful place. I wish that the council would direct it’s energies into improving the area rather than going after those who are trying to do so. Other cities like Berlin are creating tourism around great street-art. I think the council’s attitude is short sighted for Bristol. That area under the roundabout could be a tourist attraction in itself if there was some great street art down there.

  7. anon permalink
    March 15, 2010 10:53 pm

    Go on, then, start a fund to pay off the £750. (Do it via a PayPal button. I’ll give a fiver.)

  8. March 15, 2010 11:10 pm

    As a resident and flat owner in 51.02 Apartments I’m disappointed and ashamed that it came to this. I was pleased that Chris chose to included such an ugly and intimidating building within the Stokes Croft community. Chris and the PRSC have my up-most respect for what they’re doing and I hope that Stokes Croft goes from strength to strength.

    If only there was some way the sign could return with permission?

    • stokescroft permalink*
      March 16, 2010 7:27 pm

      Alex,
      there may be a way that the sign could come back, as you suggest. In answer to questioning by our barrister, James Lang stated that if all the residents had wanted the sign,then theoretically it would be able tostay. He is the manager of the property, you are the residents. do you have a residents’ association? If not, then perhaps you might organise one… So that you could have a proper say in how the property is run. After I painted the sign, and saw that it had been removed, I went into the building, attempted to get the contact details of the property manager, but was refused. I wanted to resolve the issue. The concierge would not even give me his name. It seems to me that it is important for the residents of the building to have better representation thant they currently seem to.

      Chris Chalkley

  9. March 15, 2010 11:32 pm

    It’s a shame that there are still those within Stokes Croft who do not support what the PRSC are trying to bring to the area. I’m sure they would be the first to cash in should the work gain the eventual wider recognistion that it deserves. Same as the whole council v Banksy situation.

  10. Gareth. permalink
    March 15, 2010 11:34 pm

    As a local resident I very much don’t appreciate Chris Chalkely’s efforts at all.

    Saying that, I thought the piece of graffiti he was convicted for was understated and well executed, unlike some others in the area.

    What I profoundly dislike is the idea that this is done for my benefit, mostly it is poor and ugly art and I don’t see why I should have to look at it every day and feel grateful for a cool hip thing happening, ugly is ugly after all, and there is plenty of that on offer..

    It takes monumental hubris to think that others should ‘have’ to look at your art every day, just because it is there and in your face, regardless of any talent frankly.

    It is mostly not very good, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist or even an artist to see it.

    • Dominic permalink
      March 16, 2010 4:15 am

      “ugly is ugly” eh? Apart from that statement being complete rubish -beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all- I for one much prefer to have my eye’s assaulted by the creative efforts of arrogant graffiti artists than the billboards produced by marketing and advertising companies whose only altruism is attempting to relieve me of the burdens of my wallet.

      • Gareth. permalink
        March 17, 2010 12:46 am

        I have a whole drawer full of bad art that I choose not to show to other people, I just wish that the artists that contribute to the stokes croft scene were similarly self critical, unfortunately they seem to think that any old rubbish they do is worthy of public display.

    • Adult permalink
      April 28, 2011 10:42 am

      I wholeheartedly agree Gareth. There is a small minority of talentless, over-opinionated people in Stokes Croft who insist upon forcing their ‘art’ on the rest of us.

      Chalkley is convicted criminal and doesn’t even live in the area. He certainly does not speak for me.

  11. Annabel permalink
    March 15, 2010 11:46 pm

    There’s no way it cost £150-200 for Rob, the 51.02 concierge, to get up on a step ladder and slap some paint over it! The point at the bottom about other graffiti and broken glass blocks being ignored for years is the one I always make. Some random person’s tag is much worse than a neatly painted sign welcoming people to the community. And surely the old out of date Peveral sign on the back gate is just as offensive.

  12. Bridget Ely permalink
    March 16, 2010 1:31 am

    I have a couple of leftover tins of magnolia,tell you what, you can
    have them for nuffin…
    Lets go back to bland and unimaginative then ….

  13. keda permalink
    March 16, 2010 3:47 am

    I would definately pledge some cash to your cause. Get a pay pal button going.

  14. Georgina permalink
    March 16, 2010 5:50 am

    To whom and by whom is this £750 sum owed? (Quoter was anonymous). MORE IMPORTANTLY, is there really a £700k sum that the council were supposed to spend in the area?! Also, if we are all supposed to be so proper about decorating buildings, why are the council not prosecuting the owner of 5102 for the messy tagging on the black doors? I am a local.

  15. Pamela permalink
    March 16, 2010 9:56 am

    This is all going to look really embarrassing for Bristol and its failures in urban planning when Chris is awarded a knighthood in years to come ….

  16. David permalink
    March 16, 2010 10:03 am

    Seems ridiculous. Getting on for a thousand pounds penalty for that? Hope you’re going to give us a chance to make a donation.

  17. Bristolian permalink
    March 16, 2010 12:32 pm

    Any kind of art, whether you like it or not, is better than derelict buildings, smashed windows, scribbled tags and empty shops; all of which devalue an area making it appear unloved and unsafe. (Look up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixing_Broken_Windows which describes how neglect of an area breeds crime)

    As someone who lives and works in Bristol I feel it is an embarrassment that a major road into the centre could have become so run down. Residents of the area pay council tax like everyone else and so should expect clean, safe streets. If I were a resident of 5102 I would be angry that the building had also been allowed to become scruffy and vandalized with broken glass and tags, and be grateful that other residents are working hard to improve Stokes Croft which inevitably will bring up the value of the 5102 flats.

    Well done Chris and all at PRSC for fighting the apathy and getting off your ass to make a positive change! We all know it takes the council ten times as long to action improvements. The work you have done so far, with little renumeration, has greatly improved Stokes Croft for all residents, businesses and artists, making it a desirable place to live and work again. This is bringing money and new life into the area, with Stokes Croft gaining an international reputation for street art.

    I feel this should be supported and celebrated as its the best thing to happen to the area for 20 years. Street art and graffiti (done properly, not tags) may not be to everyone’s taste but I hope people realize that PRSC and the artists aren’t paid and are doing everything they can to improve the reputation, image, security and atmosphere of Stokes Croft. In my opinion the council should allocate PRSC a budget so that artworks other than graffiti can be commissioned and changes supported by the local community (via public consultation) can be actioned quickly and efficiently.

    Chris if you set up a fund to help with the fine please post the link up as many people will happily donate, I just wish the money was going towards paint and materials instead of ridiculous bureaucracy. Shame on you Judge Maurice Champion, James Lang and Denise James.

  18. March 16, 2010 12:34 pm

    what will the fine be spent on? i hope it is put into re-generating the area, so give it back to chris and he could do something else with full permission!! leake street in london is a very good example of how graffiti/urban or street art has regenerated an area that was a no go for most people before all that paint was put on those walls.

  19. March 16, 2010 1:07 pm

    Chris, I’ll make a small contribution towards your court costs etc, might be an idea to do what anon says, like that idea.

    Good grief some interesting comments in favour of a magnolia wall , no doubt legal twonks, people involved with that monstrous carbuncle of a building and the council venting their spleens.

    Never before have I felt so inspired to paint!!! with stencils!

  20. Kevin permalink
    March 16, 2010 8:07 pm

    I propose we declare Stokes Croft to be a truly independent Republic forthwith.
    hurrah for Chalkley !

  21. badger permalink
    March 16, 2010 10:15 pm

    Having worked in the Stokes Croft area for 20 years I feel only huge thanks to Chris and all the people of PRSC. I may not like all the the street art – but the reclaiming of the area through not just the art but the positive energy has been a great joy.

    The enormous bill boards that scar stokes croft / city road should be ripped down and put up on whiteladies road….there aren’t any there !!

    Thank you Chris…and again if you start a fund to pay the ridiculous fine and costs through paypal …I will definitely contribute…

  22. March 18, 2010 10:38 pm

    i would like to add my pennys worth..in support of the creative work that chris chalkley does,its a pleasure to visit the area and to see the bright colourful and vibrant pieces of work..and its also great to see people painting ..bringing inspiration to the streets..much better role modelling than hanging around the streets doing nothing.. i do not live in Bristol, but in Totnes, where i have also been involved in supporting young artists and legalising graffiti…and also came up against criminal damage and ridiculous, and rude fines . community minded people like you should get a medal not a fine…
    Never Give Up
    lizi

  23. Jessica Burton permalink
    March 19, 2010 9:02 pm

    I moved to Bristol three months ago and having seen Stokes Croft and heard if its atmosphere I actively sought to move to the Stokes Croft area. All because of Chris and the amazing attributes of Stokes Croft mentioned by others above, not least the ‘Cultural Quarter’ sign.

    I was delighted to find a perfect flat at number 9A Stokes Croft that despite having multiple viewings, had languished on the market for 9 weeks (stupid people!)

    I’ve loved every minute of living here.

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