Sheffield graffiti vandal Fista jailed

Simon Sunderland, jailed for 18 months for criminal damage.
Simon Sunderland, jailed for 18 months for criminal damage.
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His graffiti tags have blighted the rail network for decades and now notorious Simon Sunderland is back behind bars again after he admitted causing more than £90,000 of new damage.

Sunderland, aged 41, gained notoriety in the 1990s when his ‘Fista’ tag appeared across the region.

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His criminal record for graffiti includes convictions from 1990, 1991, 1992 1996, 2002 and 2004. Yesterday he admitted four counts of criminal damage by joint enterprise, using the monikers ‘Bloodaxe’ and ‘Eric Bloodaxe’.

Sheffield Crown Court heard Sunderland, of Sharrow View, Sharrow, Sheffield, was a member of a graffiti ‘crew’ which daubed rail equipment and walls with the Bloodaxe tags and then posted pictures of their handiwork online.

Jeremy Hill-Baker, prosecuting, said Sunderland would go out alone at night and spray tags before taking pictures of them and sharing them with his ‘crew’. He also trespassed on railway lines.

Mr Hill-Baker said tags on Network Rail equipment in Sheffield, Rotherham and Chesterfield cost £90,000 to remove.

Sunderland also defaced the walls of RJ Stokes’ premises on Little London Road, Meersbrook, premises belonging to MJ Mapp next to the railway line, and buildings at Barnes Lifting Services in Unstone, near Chesterfield, bringing the total damage to £91,400.

When Sunderland was arrested police found a high visibility tabard, cans of spray paint, tubs of emulsion, brushes, artwork and a camera. Paint on his clothing matched that where graffiti had been sprayed.

Jailing him for 18 months, Judge Julian Goose QC, told Sunderland: “The harm 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.”

Sunderland was described in court as ‘psychotic’ and ‘reclusive’ with a history of mental health problems and depression.

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

At the time Judge Robert Moore told Sheffield Crown Court he was ‘one of the most prevalent and frequent spoilers of buildings in the area’. The sentence was reduced to 21 months on appeal.

Richard Adams, defending, said Sunderland was a ‘very odd individual’ who had been described by his mother as ‘incommunicative’ and ‘introverted’.

He said he was a ‘talented artist’ who had hoped to pursue a legitimate role as a graffiti artist but found there were ‘limited opportunities’.

“It would seem, given the personality traits of Mr Sunderland, he has sought company online with other graffiti artists,” he added.

Mr Adams said in 2003 Sunderland was admitted to a mental health facility and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, although another psychiatrist who assessed him recently said although he displayed psychotic symptoms he didn’t agree with the diagnosis.

Det Insp Mick Jackson from British Transport Police said after the case: “Sunderland is a prolific vandal who targeted the rail network over a number of decades. Some people consider graffiti to be art. In reality it is vandalism that not only scars the environment but contributes to the fear of crime and costs thousands of pounds.”

Vicki Beadle, from Network Rail, said: “Defacing the rail network is not only unsightly, but expensive to remove. This money could be better used reinvesting it into the railway.”