- Keiron Cummings, 21, Alex Rowe, 22, and Billy McColl, 17, carried out vandalism on 'an industrial scale'
- Self-styled 'SMT' graffiti gang targeted train and tube carriages across London, causing £150,000 worth of damage
- Judge Henry Blacksell said he would pass 'least possible' sentence as he praised defendants' 'talent'
A judge described a graffiti gang who caused £150,000 worth of damage in planned attacks on trains as 'talented artists', as he locked them up for a combined total of almost four years.
Keiron Cummings, 21, Alex Rowe, 22, and Billy McColl, 17, targeted train and tube carriages across London in a three-year campaign described as vandalism on 'an industrial scale'.
The trio, who called themselves 'SMT', caused huge disruption to train services by spraying their tag onto carriages under cover of darkness. But Judge Henry Blacksell said the defendants had 'got talent', and that he would pass the 'least possible' sentence.
Keiron Cummings, 21, of Ruislip Billy McColl, 17, of South Ruislip Alex Rowe, 22, of Milton Keynes
After vandalising trains the gang members would brag about the damage they had caused by posting pictures and videos of their handiwork online, Blackfriars Crown Court was told.
Prosecutor Jacques Howell said Cummings even had a map of the capital's rail network in his bedroom pin-pointing the raids, with the words 'you need all this and more' written above it.
|'Planned and prolonged campaign': The trio's attacks caused considerable cost and disruption to London Underground and National Rail services, a court heard|
'It's not simply tagging with marker pens. The scale we are talking about is the entire carriage being daubed.
'The aim is obviously to get kudos amongst the graffiti community,' Mr Howell added.
|'Adrenaline rush': British Transport Police launched an investigation in the wake of a huge increase in graffiti with the 'SMT' tag|
The trio were caught after British Transport Police officers launched an investigation to try and stop a huge increase in graffiti with the SMT tag.
They were caught three times carrying paint, face masks and gloves between January and June at stations in Northwood, Watford and Ealing before they were remanded in custody.
Examining a dossier of Rowe's work, Judge Henry Blacksell said that, while he understood public frustration at the damage caused by the vandals, he did not want to jail them.
He said: 'I will pass the least possible sentence. These are young men and people care about them.
'I don't endorse it but I understand the adrenaline rush and the feeling it gives them and they may be isolated in their families.
'I don't want to be doing this and I will by as lenient as I can be. They've got talent and some of Mr Rowe's portfolio you would be proud of.
'Clearly they are talented artists,' the judge added.
But Judge Blacksell said the least possible sentence would still mean prison for the trio, who all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal damage.
He said: 'This is a course of conduct which is all too prevalent in our society as well as abroad and is dealt with by people who no doubt have talent.
'Sadly it's often young men who in other areas of their lives feel isolated or inadequate.
'Taking trains out of service affects people who are trying to live their ordinary lives, disrupting them in ways you probably don't understand.
'It's often said by those who carry it out that this is a victimless crime but it is not.
'It's all very unfortunate because you are young men and it's a waste of your lives.'
Cummings, of Ruislip, north west London, was sentenced to two years in prison.
Rowe, of Stantonbury, Milton Keynes, Bucks, was handed nine months in prison.
McColl, of South Ruislip, was sentenced to a six-month youth detention training order.
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