What is graffiti?
Graffiti is writing, drawing, marking, scratching or etching any space (for example, a building, a pole or a vehicle).
Is graffiti illegal?
It is possible to create graffiti legally. For example, if you have permission from the owner or it is a space designated as a legal graffiti space. Check with your local council about these spaces.
Graffiti is a crime when you have intentionally damaged the space and you do not have permission of the owner, or your local council.
Can I buy spray paint?
If you are under 18, it is against the law for anyone to sell a spray can to you. If they do, they may face a fine. A shop assistant can ask you for identification to prove you are over 18 if you want to buy spray paint. If you cannot prove you are over 18 with identification, the shop assistant may refuse to sell you spray paint.
Can I carry a graffiti tool?
A graffiti tool is spray paint, a spray can, or anything used to make an etching, like a pocket knife or a nail.
It is against the law for anyone to sell a spray can to you if you are under 18.
It is also against the law to have any graffiti tool that has been used for illegal graffiti or that the police think was or will be used for illegal graffiti.
Can I be stopped and searched for graffiti tools?
Yes, but generally only if the police reasonably think you have a graffiti tool that has been or will be used for illegal graffiti. For more information about police searches, see “What powers do the police have”.
Can the police confiscate a graffiti tool?
Yes, but only in certain circumstances.
If you are under 18 and have a spray can, the police can take it from you if they have reason to think it is evidence that someone has broken the law by selling it to you.
For all other graffiti tools, the normal rules for police confiscations will apply. See “What powers do the police have” for more information.
What happens if I’ve been caught by the Police making illegal graffiti or illegally carrying a graffiti tool?
If you are under 17, the police may:
1. Take the graffiti tool from you (see more on this above)
2. Give you a caution;
3. Refer you to a youth justice conference;
4. Charge you. This means you will have to go to court.
What are the penalties for graffiti crimes?
If you are under 17 and you are charged for making graffiti or carrying a graffiti tool and you are then found guilty at court, depending on the case a court can:
a) Give you a reprimand – that is, a warning not to do it again;
c) Order you to pay compensation for the cost of repairing the damage you have caused;
d) Require you to perform community service work such as cleaning up the graffiti;
e) Require you to attend Youth Justice Conferencing;
f) Fine you. The amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances;
g) Send you to a youth detention centre for up to one year. This is very much a last resort and will only happen if you have been in trouble with the police a lot.
This information was last updated 10 July 2013.