University professor ordered to pay £28,000 compensation for screwdriver graffiti spree (From The Northern Echo)
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Newcastle academic must pay £28,000 compensation for screwdriver graffiti spree
6:14pm Friday 1st March 2013 in News
A university professor has been ordered to pay £28,000 compensation for scratching bizarre graffiti on cars while he was dressed in his underpants and a suit jacket.
City and society expert Stephen Graham had mixed alcohol with medication when he attacked 27 cars in the leafy suburb of Jesmond, Newcastle, last August.
Judge Guy Whitburn at Newcastle Crown Court accepted his behaviour was totally out of character but said the compensation - effectively the 48-year-old professor and his wife's life savings - must be paid in full.
The judge suspended a nine month jail sentence for a year.
Words the Newcastle University professor scratched with his screwdriver included ''arbitrary'', ''wrong'', ''very silly'' and ''twat''.
Ten of the 27 vehicles he picked out in the streets around his home during the two-hour early morning spree were 4x4s.
Graham has previously stated he did not agree with people driving large 4x4s in cities, but the judge said that this was not the motivation for the vandalism.
Those he picked out included a red Audi A1, a grey Volvo, a Mercedes and a promotional Mitsubishi 4x4 for the Metro Radio station.
At a previous hearing he admitted four counts of criminal damage and asked for another 23 cases to be taken into consideration.
The cost of repairs to each vehicle varied from around £300 to several thousand pounds, the court heard.
A witness heard scratching on the pavement in the early hours of August 31 and out of his window spotted a figure crouching on the ground.
Police were called and arrested the professor in a nearby street some time later.
With a sleep mask still on his forehead, the distinguished academic was found to be wearing underpants, trainers and just a suit jacket, the court heard.
He had taken antibiotics for an infection after he had a tooth removed, and was taking medication for an ongoing depressive illness.
He told police that he had also drunk three quarters of a bottle of gin, and having been unable to sleep, must have gone out.
Julian Smith, mitigating, said: ''This is a case which is truly exceptional.''
He added: ''Part of him still struggles to comprehend how it is someone with his professional circumstances should find himself before the court answering for these offences.
A report by a forensic psychiatrist, Don Grubin, for the defence, found the professor was in a ''dissociative state'' when he scratched the cars, and was detached from reality.
He could remember going to bed, and apart from some ''dreamlike memories" the next thing he recalled was being arrested, Mr Smith said.
During his two-hour walk around Jesmond, he had left the front door of his home in Lansdowne Gardens open, the court heard.
With regard to how his client was dressed, Mr Smith said: ''That is not a man who has set out to commit damage to cars, it is a man who is clearly not properly within himself.''
Mr Smith said his client was not merely drunk, and he showed no signs of aggression when arrested, but had a bad reaction to the medication and alcohol.
''These are extraordinary circumstances which have caused him to feel profound embarrassment and shame,'' he said.
The academic wiped tears from his eyes as Mr Smith described how his wife was standing by him.
Friends from universities at home and abroad wrote references in support.
The judge said: ''He is obviously a highly intelligent man. He is married no doubt to a highly intelligent woman. If he needs, he knows where to obtain help.''
Passing sentence, he said: ''You are a man who has a distinguished academic career.
''You are highly-respected in your field. The references that I have read speak of you in glowing terms.''
He added: ''You were out and about for something like two hours and must have walked for miles because the damage that you caused was spread among vehicles over a very considerable area.''
The judge said: ''I appreciate making the orders that I have done, I have effectively deprived you of your life savings.''
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