Police will investigate whether an ACT politician broke the law when he cleaned a mural from a wall as part of an anti-graffiti stunt over the weekend.
Steve Pratt, a Liberal MLA who is the territory's opposition urban services spokesman, spent four hours last Saturday removing what he claimed was graffiti from a cemetery wall in suburban Woden.But the stunt backfired on Tuesday when Chief Minister Jon Stanhope revealed the mural was not illegal graffiti but an artwork paid for by a local sporting club.
The matter was referred to police by Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS) Minister John Hargreaves on Wednesday. Police confirmed Thursday they would investigate the incident. "It was referred to police yesterday and there will be an investigation," a police spokesman said.
Mr Pratt said he had not committed a criminal offence because the commissioned artwork was not among a list of legal graffiti sites on a TAMS website, but he would cooperate with police.
"My door is open," Mr Pratt told ABC Radio."No politician is above the law, I will take on my chin what I need to out of this particular matter."Mr Hargreaves defended referring the matter to police, calling it an act of vandalism."We can't have people taking the law into their own hands - that's not on," Mr Hargreaves told ABC Radio."If it had been an average member of the community who had decided to take the law into their own hands and then deface the public realm we would refer the matter to the police."
Graffiti artists give Steve Pratt a spray
Thursday, 19 April 2007. 12:39
Local artists unhappy with Liberal MLA Steve Pratt's controversial graffiti removal stunt have made a colourful statement outside the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Artists painted a caricature of Mr Pratt on a canvas, and encouraged passing politicians to engage in a graffiti workshop as they arrived in the carpark.
The painting showed Mr Pratt carrying a bucket of soap and a sponge.
The Chief Minister declined to paint, but his deputy Katy Gallagher, Minister Simon Corbell and Opposition MLA Brendan Smyth all took up the spray can.
Mr Pratt was also persuaded by the artists to get involved as he arrived for work.
Public art creator Jason Burgess says the demonstration shows that graffiti can be artistic. "Well the boys called me out and asked me to come out and participate, obviously I've read in the paper what's going on and I think it's atrocious what he's done," he said. "The time and effort some guys have put in to this artwork - he obviously hasn't agreed with it and has gone and cleaned it off." "Well I believe he should be prosecuted for what he's done." "I think if it was any normal average joe that had gone and done this I think he would've been [charged]." Mr Burgess' art appears on child care centres and school areas around Canberra. http://www.abc.com.au/news/items/200704/1901381.htm?act
But the stunt backfired disastrously when Chief Minister Jon Stanhope called for a police investigation into the destruction of the artwork.
Worsening the problem for Mr Pratt, a community arts spokesman said on Wednesday Mr Pratt had been warned the mural was not to be removed.
But Mr Pratt denied ever speaking to anyone from the ACT Community Art program.
On Wednesday night he told AAP he would be taking the matter further and called on the community art workers to sign statutory declarations, outlining the exact conversations they claim to have had with him.
"They'd better get their stat decs ready," he said.
"It's absolute bullshit, you can quote me on that."http://www.thewest.com.au/aapstory.aspx?StoryName=374511