AN artist who set up a petition for legal ‘street art walls’ in Abergavenny was behind a spate of illegal graffiti in the town, the Chronicle can reveal.
Former soldier Frankie Griffiths, also known as Frankie Winters, admitted 18 counts of criminal damage, and was jailed for two months suspended for a year when he appeared before Gwent magistrates.
He was further ordered to pay £2,500 in compensation and £85 in costs.
The 25-year-old must also obey a three-month electronically tagged curfew by staying indoors at his Monk Street flat between 7pm and 7am.
A three-year criminal behaviour order banning him from carrying a spray paint can that could be used for graffiti in a public place was also imposed during the same hours.
The court heard that Griffiths, whose Facebook profile says he runs Xhale Studios based at Abergavenny’s Tithe Barn, was behind repeat cases of criminal spray paint damage to the public toilet and tourist information centre at the town’s bus station.
Other offences involved tagging and spraying a phone cabinet box in Tudor Street, a door at the Dog’s Trust in Cibi Walk, a bus stop in Lion Street, road signs in Park Road and Monmouth Road, public toilets in Queens Street, a phone box and cabinet in Hereford Road, a phone cabinet and traffic light switch camera in Monmouth Road, a power cabinet in Lion Street, and a bus stop kiosk and gas power box in Brecon Road.
He also admitted damaging signs belonging to Oxfam in Frogmore Street.
Charges of damaging a wall at the town’s Wetherspoons pub was, a rear door at the Dog’s Trust shop in Cibi Walk and a telephone cabinet in Monmouth Road were withdrawn.
Yet while causing criminal damage to property across the town centre, Frankie Winters launched an online appeal for “a legal place for graffiti”, which was reported in the Chronicle, which town mayor Cllr Tudor Thomas thought was worth considering.
He posted at the time: “Following the recent increase of graffiti in town, and there being no culprits found and instead the council has to fork out thousands to clean it, I have devised a solution that I think works for all of us…
“In areas with a legal place for graffiti, there’s always a huge decrease in wanton vandalism and graffiti, as it has a dedicated spot to be done in.
“Which will remove the need for pieces to be removed from Abergavenny’s town walls and the cost that comes with the removal.”
He proposed using the underpass tunnel at Llanfoist as a legal graffiti spot and painted a mural there, saying: “It is out of sight to the public and to any tourists and visitors to the Abergavenny area.”
The post added: “I have had some great feedback and support from local residents and as an artist myself just want to show people that when this form of artwork is done right, it can be appreciated by all.
“A designated graffiti wall would provide artists with a safe and legal place to express themselves, and show people that it can be a respectful from of art.”
He also claimed: “True graffiti artists have a set of unwritten rules we strictly adhere to, which is private property is off limits like people’s houses, vehicles, family-owned businesses, to take any and all litter/tools from a paint spot and to not act in an anti-social manner, we just want to paint not cause trouble for the general public…
“And I truly believe if this petition is successful we will have no graffiti in the town centre anymore, as all artists and writers will have a place we can go consequence free and still be able to get their name out.”
But police arrested him two months later over the spate of illegal graffiti in the town dating from between August 2021 and March 2022.
Sentencing him, magistrates said his offending was above the custody threshold owing to the “number of offences, mindless vandalism, and cost to the local authority and charities”.
But they said they could suspend it because he had no previous convictions and could be rehabilitated.