A Tyneside beauty spot was daubed with graffiti in a four-month spree by a depressed dad
British National Party member John Nichols spray painted the letters BNP on sculptures and trees in Gateshead’s Watergate Park. The 51-year-old also plastered the 158-acre countryside site with orange and green stickers on which he wrote BNP.
But his spate was halted when fed-up park staff, who had been keeping a tally of the damage, kept a watch. And Nichols, of Ebchester Avenue, Wrekenton, Gateshead, was snared acting suspiciously at the nature site.
Gateshead magistrates heard that stickers and silver paint was sprayed on sculptures, trees and signs on the reclaimed colliery site, which is located between Lobley Hill and Whickham. Prosecutor Michael Rose said staff became increasingly concerned about damage taking place at the council-run nature reserve between April and August last year. A diary was kept of the graffiti put up to try and establish a pattern and identify the person responsible.
“Forest rangers started to keep watch to try and find the person who was doing this,” he said. “On August 9, staff found these stickers in the park and noticed Nicholls bending down where subsequently stickers were found. He was photographed by a ranger and later arrested. When interviewed he made admissions but could give no reason why he did it.”
Mr Rose said the graffiti was removed. “There is no total for the cost of the repairs to the damage but it is probably considerable,” he added.
A statement from senior countryside ranger Kelly O’Sullivan was read to the court. She said because of concern about the amount of graffiti she started keeping a diary.
“I have lost count of the number of times I have had to call out the graffiti team,” she said. “Sometimes it has taken a full day to identify and remove the graffiti because of the size of the park.”
She added: “It saddens and angers me to see the park defaced in such a way. Slogans have upset our regular users to have complained.”
Unemployed Nichols was given a 12-month community order after admitting three offences of causing criminal damage. He was ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work and JPs said they hoped it could be in the park. He must also pay £100 court costs.
Defending, Mick Foley, said Nichols, who has no previous convictions, has suffered from severe depression since his partner left and moved to Kent with their two young children. Mr Foley said: “He has been a member of the BNP for four years but he isn’t an activist, he doesn’t attend meetings and doesn’t attend rallies. He would walk in the park with his dog and can’t really give an explanation why he did it. He was suffering from depression and was on medication which can make people do strange things. This doesn’t excuse it but it is the only thing he can put it down to.”
After the case, Jenny Hart from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Nichols targeted one of Tyneside’s most popular public parks causing great concern to the many people who visit it regularly.”