Ben Gittany, the George Michael vandal who painted over a mural of the late singer copped a $14,000 fine and 300 hours of community service.
One of the property’s owners – a friend of the singer – commissioned Sydney street artist Scott Marsh to create the mural. It depicted Michael as a saint with a halo and holding a joint.
George Michael vandal claimed artwork was offensive
Ben Gittany told the court in July he was Catholic. Because of his religious beliefs, he saw the work as “offensive to me because it was a mural of Jesus holding drugs in full view of everyone.”
On Tuesday morning, Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman said she had considered whether the 24-year-old should spend time in prison. However, she noted Gittany had acknowledged the grief he had caused one of the property’s residents, Buzzfeed News reported.
“But there is no expression in [the letter to the court] it was wrong and you harmed a community.
“You travelled to someone else’s community and imposed your views on them with an act that was criminal and harmful.”
Disturbing message of rejection
“What was left was a large area of black paint which arguably was a disturbing message of rejection to the community and arguably a contempt for other people.
“We are not a community where violence, criminal acts and property destruction are sanctioned because you have different beliefs to other people.”
A pre-sentence report indicated Gittany now understood there were other ways to show his disapproval, like complaining to the council.
But Huntsman said the damage was extensive and had distressed the owner and the community.
She ordered Gittany to carry out 300 hours of community service, which may include cleaning graffiti.
“Every time you have to spend hours washing damaged walls you can reflect on your own conduct,” she said.
The property owners commissioned Sydney street artist Scott Marsh to create the artwork two weeks after the singer died. They knew George Michael.
The mural was targeted several times with graffiti and eggs during the marriage law postal survey last year.
In response to Gittany’s vandalism, locals covered the coat of black paint with pro-equality messages such as “Too Late, Love Won” and “Love Conquers All”.
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