AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Graffiti and flyposting

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Graffiti and fly-posting in England & Wales

Getting graffiti and fly-posters removed

Graffiti is words or drawings that are written, painted, sprayed or scratched on the surface of any property. Fly-posters usually advertise or promote events and are placed without permission of the owner of the property and can take the form of stickers, signs or posters. Councils take fly-posting seriously - when you report fly-posting, your council will make enquiries into the source of the advertisements and take action if possible.

Graffiti and fly-posting are both illegal, spoil both public and private property and can be very costly to remove. Fly-posting is the unauthorised placing of advertising - usually posters or stickers - on any available surface. You can report graffiti and fly-posting to your council.

Graffiti penalties

Graffiti and fly-posting are both criminal offences carrying large fines if given out by a magistrate, or up to a £75 fixed penalty notice if issued by the local authority or police. If you see any one doing graffiti or fly-posting, you should report it to your local council or the police.

Fly-posting penalties

Fly-posting is an offence under Section 224(3) of the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) 1990 and the Highways Act 1980.

Advertisers can be fined up to £2,500 on conviction for this offence under the TCPA 1990, and in the case of a continuing offence, £100 per day after a conviction. The individual who physically affixes the poster (rather than the advertised business) may be issued with an FPN of £75.

The local authority can remove posters from highways without notice, and in other instances can serve Defacement Removal Notices requiring the owners of the property which has been defaced to remove the fly-posting. The notice will give a minimum of 28 days for the removal of the poster, after which the local authority can remove it and recover its costs from the owner of the property.

Responsibility for removing graffiti and fly-posting

Your local authority is usually responsible for removing graffiti and fly-posters from public buildings, street furniture or monuments.

Other structures, such as telephone boxes, bus shelters and electricity boxes, are the responsibility of the company that has placed them there.

However, the local authority does have a power to issue a 'defacement removal notice' to the property owner, which requires them to remove the graffiti or fly-posting within 28 days. If they fail to do so, the local authority can do the work themselves and recover the costs.

Your local council cannot remove graffiti or fly-posting from private households and other private property without the owner's permission. However, many offer a free or subsidised service to assist the removal.

Reporting problems to your council

If you are affected by graffiti or fly-posting, or you see it on property nearby, you can report it to your council, which will be able to advise what steps can be taken to remove it.

Graffiti and fly-posting in Scotland

Under the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004, there is now a ban on the sale of spray paint to under 16s (local authorities to enforce) and new powers for local authorities to remove graffiti from street furniture, such as phone boxes, park benches, transport and educational institutions.

In Scotland, graffiti can fall under two separate criminal offences. Firstly, it could fall under the common law offence of 'malicious mischief'. Secondly, it is also a form of vandalism, which is dealt with by section 52 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995. In terms of that section: "any person who, without reasonable excuse, wilfully or recklessly destroys or damages any property belonging to another shall be guilty of the crime of vandalism."

The maximum penalty for malicious mischief depends on the maximum range which the trial court possesses. For vandalism, there is a maximum fine of £1000 or a maximum sentence of 60 days' imprisonment in a district court. In the sheriff court, there is a maximum fine of £5000 and/or 3 months' imprisonment (6 months for a second or subsequent conviction). The court in which a case would be heard would be at the discretion of the procurator fiscal (prosecutor) and would depend on the seriousness of the offence.

Fly-posting, that is displaying posters or similar items to advertise on buildings and street furniture, contrary to the regulatory framework for advertisement control and without prior consent from the owner, is also illegal in Scotland.

It is illegal to fly-post and benefit from the advertising under:

  • Town & Country Planning (Scotland)Act 1997
  • Control of Adverts (Scotland ) Regulations 1984
  • Roads (Scotland) Act 1984
In addition, action can be taken under:

  • Antisocial Behaviour etc. Scotland Act 2004
  • Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982
  • Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976
Graffiti and fly-posting in Northern Ireland

Local councils can remove or obliterate any graffiti, which in their opinion is detrimental to the amenity of any land in its district, in terms of Article 18 of the Provisions of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. Councils can remove any placard or poster which is displayed in its district and which, in its opinion, is displayed in contravention of the advertisement regulations. The council can serve a notice to the responsible person (for the graffiti or fly-posting) under this article, requiring graffiti and posters to be removed within 14 days of the notice being served. If, after the 14 day notice has expired, the graffiti and fly-posting has not been removed, the council can authorise a person to remove or obliterate the graffiti or fly-posting and recover the costs from the 'responsible person'. In this article the 'responsible person' refers to the landowners on which the graffiti/fly-posting is placed, and the goods, trade, business or other concern being publicised.

Only the Department of Environment (Planning Services) has powers to fine people guilty of an offence under Article 18 of the Local Government Order.

A 'Clean Neighbourhoods Bill' is being planned for Northern Ireland. This bill will give district councils powers to deal more effectively with a wide range of local environmental problems. In England and Wales, legislation is already in place to deal with these issues; however there is currently no equivalent provision in Northern Ireland.