Graffiti gang caused damage worth �70k in Norfolk and Cambridge

Members of a prolific graffiti gang who caused nearly �70,000 worth of damage to trains across Norfolk and Cambridgeshire have been ordered to undertake a total of 650 hours of community service following a British Transport Police investigation.

Oliver Flatman, 18, of Bluebell Road, Earlham, Joseph Mayne, 20, of Oslars Way, Cambridge, and Ben Martin, 30, of Field View, Cambridge, were also ordered to pay �6,100 in compensation to train operating companies First Capital Connect and National Express East Anglia. The trio pleaded guilty to several counts of criminal damage between May 2009 and June 2010 and possession of a controlled drug (cannabis) and were sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court on Thursday.

All three, using graffiti tags such as 'Kush', 'Quir' and 'Big', targeted trains in and around Norwich, Cambridge, Colchester and Bishop's Stortford.

The extent of the damage caused by the gang began to unravel after BTP officers apprehended them on April 11, 2010 as they returned from spraying a bridge. Martin and Smith were stopped in their car and officers found them covered in paint and in possession of spray cans. Later, evidence from the scene was forensically analysed and Mayne's fingerprints were matched to the cans recovered.

An operation, codenamed Observant, was launched and dedicated officers were tasked to gather evidence to link the group to approximately 30 further spates of graffiti damage caused to train carriages and railway sidings.

Sergeant Tim Tubbs, head of Operation Observant, said: 'British Transport Police takes criminal damage in the form of graffiti on the rail network extremely seriously; we seek to catch and prosecute those who commit such crimes.'

Jay Thompson, head of safety for NXEA, said: 'These convictions demonstrate our resolve to seek prosecutions for anyone intent on participating in criminal activity.'

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Tony Holland, FCC's crime prevention manager, said: 'I hope this latest ruling will make other graffiti artists think twice before they consider vandalising the railways.'

The Evening News is trying to combat graffiti in Norwich through its Graffitibusters campaign.

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