Notorious Sheffield graffiti tagger jailed for 18 months

Simon Sunderland, jailed for 18 months for criminal damage.
Simon Sunderland, jailed for 18 months for criminal damage.
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A ‘reclusive’ graffiti artist whose ‘Fista’ tag made him notorious across South Yorkshire during the 1990s – has been jailed again for causing more than £90,000 worth of damage to the rail network.

Simon Sunderland, aged 41, of Sharrow View, Sharrow, Sheffield, was jailed for 18 months this morning by a judge at Sheffield Crown Court.

He admitted causing more than £90,000 of damage with his new monikers ‘Bloodaxe’ and ‘Eric Bloodaxe’.

Sheffield Crown Court heard Sunderland, who was described as ‘odd’ and a ‘loner’ in court, was a member of a graffiti ‘crew’ which met online and daubed rail equipment and walls with the tags then posted pictures of their ‘artwork’ on the internet for discussion.

He admitted four counts of criminal damage on the rail network at locations across South Yorkshire and north Derbyshire by joint enterprise from January 2008 to October 2009.

Prosecutor Jeremy Hill-Baker, said the tags appeared on Network Rail equipment in Sheffield, Rotherham and Chesterfield and cost the firm £90,000 to remove.

Sunderland also sprayed murals and graffiti on the walls of RJ Stokes’ premises in Little London Road, Meersbrook; on premises belonging to MJ Mapp next to the railway line and on buildings at Barnes Lifting Services in Unstone, near Chesterfield.

In total he caused £91,400 worth of damage.

Mr Hill-Baker said Sunderland had previous convictions for similar offences in 1990. 1991, 1992, 1996, 2002 and 2004.

In 1996 he was jailed for five years for criminal damage using the tag ‘Fista’.

At the time Judge Robert Moore said he was ‘one of the most prevalent and frequent spoilers of buildings in the area’.

The sentence was reduced to 21 months on appeal after hundreds of protesters joined a campaign to ‘Free Fista’.

Richard Adams, defending, said Sunderland was a ‘very odd individual’ who had a long history of mental health problems and depression, triggered after his first period of incarceration.

In 2003 he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia although another psychiatrist who assessed him recently said although he displayed psychotic symptoms he didn’t agree with that diagnosis.

Jailing him Judge Julian Goose QC said: “The harm that you have caused is not measured only by the cost of repair but also by the public annoyance that such damage causes in such a visible way. There must be a deterrent element to the sentence I must pass.”

After the hearing Detective Inspector Mick Jackson from British Transport Police said: “Sunderland is a prolific vandal who targeted the rail network with his criminal campaign over a number of decades.

“He was convicted of almost identical offences in 1996 and his more recent crime spree highlights his total disregard for the law.

“Graffiti offences are constantly being reviewed and offenders will be sought even many months or years after the crime – I hope this acts as a deterrent for those thinking about doing the same.

“Some people consider graffiti to be art but in reality it is nothing more than selfish vandalism that not only scars the railway environment but contributes to the fear of crime and costs operators thousands of pounds in equipment downtime as well as cleaning.

“The financial costs of cleaning up graffiti have to be borne by someone, and that someone is ultimately the fare-paying passenger.

“Trains are taken out of service for cleaning, sometimes for days at a time, causing disruption and delays for passengers.

“Graffiti also involves serious risks to those who go onto the tracks, who often don’t know when a train will come or if the tracks are live.”