Fact sheet – Graffiti

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What is graffiti?

Graffiti is a form of vandalism.

Graffiti is when you damage the appearance of a property such as a building, table, pole or vehicle in any way by writing, drawing, marking, scratching, etching or posting something on any property that is not easily removed.

Graffiti can be known as;

  • Tagging
  • Bombing
  • Street art
  • Scribe
  • Wild style

Is graffiti illegal?


Graffiti is illegal when permission is not given by either the owner of the property or local council. It is illegal to graffiti on public transport. Graffiti that is rude, distasteful, disrespectful or racist is known as 'offensive graffiti'.

What are "graffiti tools"?

It is illegal to carry graffiti tools with the intent to create illegal graffiti.

A graffiti tool can include:

  • Spray paint
  • Permanent marker
  • Chalk
  • Even a drill bit which can be used for etching or scribing.

But it's not against the law if you can prove that you have a lawful reason to carry these things.

Who can buy spray paint?

You can only buy spray paint if you are over 18.

It is illegal for anybody under the age of 18 to buy or sell spray paint.

If a can of spray paint is sold to someone under the age of 18, the seller can be charged, convicted and fined.

When is it okay to graffiti?

It is possible to create graffiti legally. Graffiti is legal if on private property and permission is given by the owner or if in a 'legal graffiti space' and permission is given by the council, such as doing it as part of your work or education.

However, even if permission from the owner of the property is given, offensive graffiti is still a crime.


A police officer may stop, search and arrest you if they reasonably believe that you have a graffiti tool that will be used to create illegal graffiti.

In those circumstances the police officer may;

  • Require your name and address
  • Search you and take possession of the graffiti tools
  • Give you an informal caution
  • Issue a formal warning.

If you are caught doing illegal graffiti you may be charged. This means you will have to go to Court.

If you are charged with a graffiti crime and then found guilty, the Court may;

  • Record a conviction
  • Require you to do community service
  • Make you clean up the graffiti
  • Make you pay money to the persons whose property you did the graffiti on
  • Order you to pay a fine.


Last updated: 20-April-2021