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From this site - http://www.environmentlaw.org.uk/rte.asp?id=49:

In England and Wales, graffiti is considered an act of criminal damage under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 and offenders can be punished with an unlimited fine.

Is it illegal to deface graffiti? For example, spray painting over existing graffiti on a public wall.

By defacing I mean black-boxing, drawing a line through, painting over with the colour of the wall. So not tagging, but just spoiling or covering.

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  • IMO it could be seen not as "defacing a graffiti" but as a new, different offence of painting a graffiti; IOW that there was a graffiti under the new graffiti would not make much of a difference.
    – SJuan76
    Nov 23 '20 at 17:27
  • By "spraying over it", do you mean adding your own tag on top of it, black-boxing it, or spraying it the colour of the wall?
    – Studoku
    Nov 23 '20 at 19:39
  • @Studoku black boxing/line through/colour of the wall. Not tagging just spoiling.
    – user35476
    Nov 23 '20 at 19:41
  • I'm assuming you mean by persons other than with explicit authority to paint the wall?
    – Moo
    Nov 23 '20 at 19:47
  • @Moo That's correct.
    – user35476
    Nov 23 '20 at 19:49
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It depends...

The statutory defence relevant to the OP may be found at s.5(2)(a) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/48/section/5?timeline=false

if at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence he believed that the person or persons whom he believed to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question had so consented, or would have so consented to it if he or they had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances...

So the burden of proof is on the over-painter to establish that they believed they had consent to commit further criminal damage (by over-painting black boxes etc).

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  • So it's criminal damage to paint over existing criminal damage?
    – user35476
    Nov 23 '20 at 20:13
  • 1
    Yep, unless the over-painter can establish they believed they had consent. As @SJuan76 commented, the black boxes etc are further criminal damage unless proved otherwise. Whether the police or local authority would take action is a different matter
    – Rock Ape
    Nov 23 '20 at 20:18
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    Understood. Thanks.
    – user35476
    Nov 23 '20 at 20:21
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Is it your wall?

If it is you can put whatever you like on it (subject to planning permission) - you can paint it a single colour, create an artwork or sign your name over and over. It’s only illegal graffiti if it’s done without the owner’s permission.

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  • 1
    On a public wall, such that the person who had done the graffiti would have been arrested/fined if caught in the act..
    – user35476
    Nov 23 '20 at 20:12
  • @user35476 someone owns every wall.
    – Dale M
    Nov 23 '20 at 20:15
  • Huh? I meant not my wall. To be clearer, let's say a wall alongside a canal.
    – user35476
    Nov 23 '20 at 20:19
  • @user35476 oh, you mean the one owned by the canal owner? They can paint what they like on it, you can’t.
    – Dale M
    Nov 23 '20 at 20:28
  • There are plenty of walls that are owned by the state.
    – Studoku
    Nov 23 '20 at 22:51

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