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Judge supports graffiti dad

PUBLISHED: 00:30 19 June 2005 | UPDATED: 05:56 02 March 2010

AN IPSWICH father who painted over a community graffiti project has today avoided punishment and gained the support of a district judge.

Vernon Mussington, 40, of Rands Way, spread yellow paint across graffiti on a boarded-up shop in Queen's Way, which had been painted by youngsters in the area as part of a government-funded community scheme.

AN IPSWICH father who painted over a community graffiti project has today avoided punishment and gained the support of a district judge.

Vernon Mussington, 40, of Rands Way, spread yellow paint across graffiti on a boarded-up shop in Queen's Way, which had been painted by youngsters in the area as part of a government-funded community scheme.

He said that while he was not against graffiti in the right place but feared putting it on abandoned shops would encourage youngsters to hang around.

At a hearing at Ipswich magistrates court he was given a £25 bind-over by District Judge David Cooper, which means if he causes trouble in the next 12 months he will have to pay £25 as well as face punishment for the new offence.

Judge Cooper said he understood why Mr Mussington had taken the action but had no choice but to give him the bind-over.

He said: "I want the whole world to know that, in my view, what you did was entirely understandable, that you are of excellent character and that a bind-over is not a conviction.

"I think £25 is the lowest bind-over I have ever given in my life."

Mr Mussington argued against the decision, claiming that to give him a bind-over to keep the peace would be like "giving the Pope a bind-over to be a Catholic."

However, after being given an hour to decide whether to accept it or face trial and possible conviction, he opted for the bind-over.

Mr Mussington admitted taking the drastic action on February 19, using bright yellow paint to de-face the mural on the former Costcutters shop which included the names of some of the young people from the area as well as a large picture of cartoon character Sponge Bob Square Pants

Speaking after the case, Mr Mussington said he was relieved not to have been convicted but did not feel the bind-over was necessary either.

He said: "I had to accept it in the end because I work with children and I couldn't take the risk of being convicted and having a criminal record.

"I stand by what I did and I'm glad the judge understood.

"I am not against graffiti like this in the right places but putting it on boarded up shops will only encourage the kids to hang around there.

"It seems like some of us are fighting to get out of the ghetto, while other people are trying to fund it around us."

Ipswich born and bred Mr Mussington is well known character in the Queen's Way area and said a number of passers-by stopped and offered their support while he was painting.

Mr Mussington's actions may have won the support of District Judge Cooper but they have angered youth workers who spent many hours organising the project.

Speaking at the time, former Priory Heath community worker Nina Grunberg said she was "really annoyed" that Mr Mussington had decided to paint over the work.

She said: "Vernon works with young people himself, I do not understand why he has done this. "The youngsters are going to be very upset.

"Graffiti was being used as a teaching tool to get the young people in the area to talk and learn about respect. It was something they could be proud of and a way of gaining some self-respect and the respect of the community."

Ms Grunberg said residents had been consulted about the scheme before the graffiti was put up.

She said about 25 youngsters had been involved with the project.

She added: "Costcutters has been boarded up for a long time, why didn't Vernon paint over the offensive graffiti that was there before?

"We had used plywood panels we wanted to move and display in different locations. It is such a shame."

Ms Grunberg said she thought Mr Mussington had failed to grasp what the project was about.

She said: "The young people were not in trouble while this was going on. They have been busy painting instead."

Do you live in the Queen's Way area? What do you think? Should graffiti be used to teach youngsters about respect or do projects like this just encourage crime? Should Mr Mussington have painted over the panels? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk


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