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Loyalist Pair guilty of ‘No Irish Sea Border’ graffiti blitz –

Duo could be ordered to join ‘clean-up’ squad.

Mechanic William Donnell
Farm labourer Mitchell Leeburn

Mechanic William Donnell

John Lee

March 19 2022 06:06 PM

Two men convicted of an ‘anti-Irish Sea border’ graffiti blitz in Larne could be ordered into a ‘clean-up squad’ in the town as part of their punishment, a judge has suggested.

Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer was speaking at Ballymena Magistrates Court as he convicted farm labourer Mitchell Leeburn (26) and mechanic William Donnell (22) of six charges of criminal damage, which they had denied.

The graffiti sprayed by the east Antrim pair included ‘Larne says no to Irish Sea border’ and ‘All bets are off’.

Leeburn, of Deerpark Road, Kilwaughter, and Donnell, of Waterfall Road, Raloo, near Larne, had previously pleaded guilty to two charges of criminal damage relating to graffiti in Larne in February 2021.

The judge also convicted both of a charge of possessing spray paint with intent to damage property.

An earlier court heard there had been “spray painting around the Larne area to do with the Protocol”.

Defence lawyers had argued that linking the two men to graffiti at all the locations was “circumstantial”.

The court heard a Facebook Messenger post from Donnell to Leeburn said: “Everybody is doing it tonight, lol, if you want to join the fun.”

Judge Mateer said that, in connection with the charges before the court, there was no evidence to show others had taken part and the Facebook Messenger post “may or may not be true”.

He said the prosecution case was that Leeburn and Donnell were “found participating in a joint enterprise” where graffiti was being sprayed on a shop wall in Larne on a night a number of other premises were hit in the same way.

Judge Mateer said both men “ran away when challenged” by police.

He said he didn’t accept Leeburn’s claim that he was “simply out for a dander”, nor Donnell’s explanation that he had paint for “spraying cars”.

The judge said he was “prepared to draw an adverse inference against each defendant through their failure to account and testify on their own behalf” in court.

He said he was satisfied they were both engaged in a joint enterprise in the damage and that they are guilty of all of the offences.

Judge Mateer added: “It’s clearly a case that attracted a lot of media interest at the time.”

The cases have been adjourned to the end of April for pre-sentence reports.

The judge said: “A good punishment would be to get them on a work squad cleaning up graffiti in the area.”

But he said that would be a matter for the sentencing judge.

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‘Sharing Responsibility’ and the future of Northern Ireland

By Tony Novosel – In the 1978 comedy Animal House, a group of students embark on a drunken road trip in a fellow student’s car. The result? A totalled car and a very distraught student. Seemingly to comfort him, one of the older students puts his arm around him and then calmly says, “C’mon Flounder. You can’t […]

‘Sharing Responsibility’ and the future of Northern Ireland
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