Huge crime spree foiled in Harrogate

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A GRAFFITI gang caught in Harrogate after a six-year crime spree has been jailed for a total of two years.

Friends Dan Jay-Wester, Jack Rodgers and James Steward were part of a graffiti crew known as NKA which targeted trains across the UK and as far away as Australia.

The West Yorkshire trio was arrested after cleaners at Harrogate stations spotted Rodgers spraying a train with his distinctive tag. Despite hiding in a wheelie bin, he was caught by police.

The other two were arrested later after officers searched their homes, finding incriminating sketch books, film footage and photographs.

Sentencing the trio at York Crown Court on Tuesday, the Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, said he could only impose a custodial sentence: “None of you cared about the impact that you were inflicting on other people. It was self indulgent and seriously criminal.”

The court had heard how the three, all members of a “prolific” Leeds gang known as NKA, had sprayed trains all across the country between 2003 and 2009.

Their graffiti tags, OGRE, HACK and TWOK, were spotted in places as far away as Bristol, the Midlands, Wigan, continental Europe and even the Far East and Australia.

Prosecutor Matthew Harding said they would operate under the cover of darkness, filming “trophy shots” of their handiwork.

“The cost of the damage is considerable, both in the need for removal and for increased security,” said Mr Harding, who estimated the damage to be £265,000.

Defence barristers for the trio pleaded with the judge to consider suspended sentences, citing their early guilty pleas and previous good characters. They were not operating for financial gain, they said, nor with the motivation to cause economic loss to others.

Mark Foley, representing Jay-Webster, described the acts as “a selfish enthusiasm by frustrated artists”.

“Perhaps it’s a gross vanity on his part to presume that the public should be treated to his work,” he said. “It’s a misconceived wish to display art with a misplaced understanding of the incovenience to others. That lesson has been learned.”

Dan Jay-Webster, 26, of Stanningley Road, Armley, Jack Rodgers, 27, of Bramble Grove, Pool in Wharfedale, and James Steward, 27, of Mitchell Close, Idle, were sentenced to eight months each behind bars.

Officers for the British Transport Police had been tracking the gang for years. Speaking after Tuesday’s case, PC Tony McGibbon said: “They cared little for the impact their wanton destruction would have others and were only interested in enhancing and furthering their own reputations amongst the graffiti vandal fraternity.”