South Tyneside cleaners moonlighting as graffiti vandals caught after causing £46,000 of damage despite being hired to keep the rail network clean
Three depot cleaners were part of an organised graffiti gang who caused over £46,000 damage to trains across the UK national rail network
The group spray-painted identifiable "tags" on railway carriages and rolling stock at depots in Newcastle, Sunderland, London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bedford.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Grand Central, Virgin, TransPennine and Scotrail trains came under attack, as well as tubes and Metros.
The graffiti gang took pictures and videos and even posed in front of their daubing, with the images found on phones and Gopro devices when they were seized by the police.
Prosecutor Glen Gatland told the court there were 37 separate graffiti incidents committed by the group between January 2018 and June 2019.
Adam Smith, 28, of Hedgeley Road, Hebburn, Mark Marshall, 28, of Greenbank, Jarrow, David McGuire, 28, of Winskill Road, South Shields, Jordan Shone, 26, of Lumley Court, Hebburn and Colin Bell, 47, of St Vincent Street, South Shields, all admitted conspiracy to damage property.
Prosecutor Glenn Gatland said Smith and Shone were the "lead participants and organisers" and were involved in the most attacks.
Mr Gatland said Smith, Shone and Marshall were employed as cleaners at depots on the rail network at the time of some of the offences.
But despite being hired to help keep the rail network clean, the men did very much the opposite, causing tens of thousands of pounds in damage around the country.
The court heard Smith was involved in 35 incidents and was responsible for £43,340 damage, Marshall in eight and responsible for £21,000 damage, Shone in 19 and responsible for £22,000 damage, McGuire in two and responsible for £1,360 damage and Bell in four, with responsibility for over £11,000 damage.
Judge Robert Spragg said damage to transport networks "sickens" members of the public and that the conspiracy covered a wide geographical area.
Smith, who has a criminal record, was jailed for 18 months. He admitted he would "get a buzz" out of graffiti but the court heard has since matured and has family commitments.
Shone, who said graffiti was a "hobby" and has health problems but a settled homelife and no criminal record, was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for 18 months, with rehabilitation requirements and 250 hours unpaid work.
Marshall, who said he started graffiti as a teen, got "addicted" to it and was "oblivious" to the consequences, has no previous convictions and is in employment.
He was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with rehabilitation requirements and 200 hours unpaid work.
Bell, who has previous convictions but has since relocated to a new area, has family responsibilities, a job and has expressed remorse, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with £4,000 compensation order and 50 hours unpaid work.
McGuire, who said he used graffiti as a form of "escape" but has since stayed away from trouble and made "significant progress", was sentenced to a community order for 18 months with rehabilitation requirements and 80 hours unpaid work.