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…