Wednesday, February 21

The Supreme Court opens the door to punish the graffiti artists of artistic goods with prison


Public sculpture of Vitoria vandalized. / ec

The high court establishes that the graffiti can carry up to three years in prison if the damage to the heritage is significant

Melchor Saiz-Pardo

The Supreme opens the door to punish with sentences of up to three years in prison and important fines to graffiti artists who carry out graffiti on historical-artistic heritage assets. The Criminal Chamber of the high court has established that the damage caused intentionally in these pieces of furniture and real estate must be considered as a crime against cultural heritage provided that the damage caused has a certain entity and is not a mere “easily repairable tarnish” . And all this, regardless of the value of the damages.

In its ruling, for which Judge Carmen Lamela was the rapporteur, the Supreme Court sentenced the author of some graffiti on a sculpture by Eduardo Chillida, called ‘Encounter Place II’, exposed outdoors in King’s Square, Madrid. The condemned, in addition, must compensate the City Council of the capital of Spain with 1,376 euros, which was the cost of the repair.

The Criminal Chamber, in practice, establishes that whenever the damage caused by the graffiti is important, article 323 of the Penal Code must be applied, which establishes that it will be “punished with a prison sentence of six months to three years or a fine of twelve to twenty-four months that which causes damage to assets of historical, artistic, scientific, cultural or monumental value, or to archaeological, terrestrial or underwater sites. The Supreme, also de facto, equates the penalties for graffiti artists who paint these assets with that of the “plunderers” of deposits, to whom this same article applies. In this case, the graffiti artist from Madrid is sentenced to five months in prison and not the six set by the Penal Code because a mitigating factor of undue delay is applied.

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The high court, which considers the appeal of the Prosecutor’s Office, thus amends the plan to the Provincial Court of Madrid that acquitted the accused, considering that there had been no evidence of impairment or deterioration of the sculpture beyond having tarnished it. The graffiti artist had been sentenced in the first instance by the Criminal Court number 29 of Madrid, which had convicted him of the crime of damage to property, a resolution that the high court now makes firm.

eight tons

The facts that the Supreme Court considers proven date back to the early hours of March 31, 2017. The accused made two graffiti with a special white marker, about 24 centimeters high and 71 centimeters long, and about 25 centimeters wide. height and 42 centimeters in length, respectively, on the work of Eduardo Chillida, dating from 1971, made of almost eight tons of steel and which the Madrid City Council has inventoried since 2015 as artistic and historical furniture.

In its resolution, the room establishes that for the damage to be relevant, it must be taken into account that the repair did not simply require cleaning the sculpture with water, but rather a restoration of it carried out by a team of restorers. specialized, and the work included the use of a nebulized water hydro-cleaning machine, the placement of specific pads for the absorption of the inks of the graffiti itself, their subsequent removal, as well as the cleaning of the entire assembly and removal of implants of different auxiliary machinery.


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