I am a graffiti artist. Is there any law I need to be aware of?


Graffiti is sometimes regarded as an art form by those doing it, but by members of the general public it is often seen as a nuisance, frequently associated with anti-social behaviour and gang culture. It is also costly to get rid of: recent estimates put the clean-up costs for graffiti in the UK at more than £1bn.

Often graffiti artists can showcase their work on specially made structures provided for by local businesses and local governments. However, if you are a graffiti artist and you wish to make your work available to the public, on public or private property, there are various pieces of legislation you should be aware of.

Definition of graffiti

Definitions of graffiti include:

  • drawings;
  • scribbles;
  • messages or tags.

These must be painted, written, sprayed or etched onto walls or other surfaces.

Criminal Damage Act 1971

If you’re caught doing graffiti, you will be guilty of a criminal offence under s1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 (CDA 1971). Sentences for graffiti range from a conditional discharge from the magistrates’ court for minor damage, to up to 10 years imprisonment by the Crown Court where the damage caused is more than £10,000. Alternatively, you may be given a fine or a community service order – often the case in relation to young offenders.

Under s 6 of CDA 1971, police have the power to search the homes of suspected graffiti artists in serious cases, to look for and seize articles which could be used to damage someone else’s property.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 (ASBA 2003), as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 (CNEA 2005), gives local authorities the power to issue a fixed penalty notice for anyone caught doing graffiti.

The usual fixed penalty for this offence under CNEA 2005 is £75. The local authority can specify a higher or lower penalty however, if it deems it necessary.

Failure to comply with the fixed penalty notice will result in a criminal sanction.

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For more information on:

  • Public Order Act 1986
  • Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003
  • Tagging
  • As an artist is there anywhere I can do it legally?
  • Free walls