Jesmond professor Stephen Graham shamed by conviction

A RESPECTED North East professor went on a £28,000 car-scratching spree after downing codeine and alcohol to cope with a tooth abscess.

Professor Stephen Graham, 47, at Newcastle Magistrates Court
Professor Stephen Graham, 47, at Newcastle Magistrates Court

A RESPECTED North East professor went on a £28,000 car-scratching spree after downing codeine and alcohol to cope with a tooth abscess.

Prof Stephen Graham gouged “polite graffiti” into dozens of vehicles in a “dream-like state” due to imbibing a cocktail of painkillers and gin after his tooth became infected.

The 48-year-old was discovered wearing just his trainers, a suit jacket and underwear as he used a screwdriver to scratch words into the vehicles.

Over a two-hour period he inscribed words including “arbitrary”, “very, very silly” and “t***” into 27 cars and 4x4 vehicles in Jesmond, Newcastle.

But when officers arrested him on August 27 last year, he “came to” and had no recollection of the vandalism.

In custody he was struck with “alarm and paranoia” and feared “he would lose everything”.

A judge at Newcastle Crown Court has now handed him a nine-month suspended sentence and ordered him to pay £28,000 in compensation – his entire life savings.

Judge Guy Whitburn QC, who was given a series of references from colleagues in the UK and France, said: “You are a man who has had a distinguished academic career at both Durham and Newcastle universities.

“You are highly respected in your field and you are described as committing acts which strike me as totally out of character and that’s reflected in the references I have read.”

Wracked with tooth ache and not wanting to keep his wife awake, he had planned to sleep elsewhere in the home.

But at just after 1am he left the house in Lansdowne Gardens, Jesmond Vale, Newcastle, armed with a screwdriver and with a sleep mask on his forehead.

With the front door of his home wide open, he targeted vehicles in a “considerable area” in Jesmond Park West, Ripon Gardens, Rosebery Crescent and surrounding streets before he was arrested by police nearly two hours later at 2.50am.

The court was told that Prof Graham, who wiped away tears as the judge heard the support he had received from his wife, had suffered “profound embarrassment and shame” following the incident.

At a previous hearing he admitted four counts of criminal damage and asked for another 23 cases to be taken into consideration.

Julian Smith, mitigating, said: “He couldn’t understand then and part of him still struggles to comprehend how someone with his professional circumstances should find himself before the court answering for these offences.”

It was previously thought Prof Graham – who was also suffering from sleep deprivation – staged the vandalism after complaining that 4x4 vehicles were too large for the city.

But Judge Whitburn dismissed that claim and said the selection of vehicles targeted disproved that theory.

Mr Smith said: “The fact of the matter is, having taken that alcohol and taken himself to bed rather than disturb his wife with his tossing and turning, he put on an eye mask.

“Apart from dream-like memories, the next point at which he was fully conscious was when he was arrested.”

A report by a forensic psychiatrist, Prof Don Grubin, for the defence, found the professor was in a “dissociative state” when he scratched the cars.

Judge Whitburn said: “He is obviously a highly intelligent man. He is married no doubt to a highly intelligent woman. If he needs, he knows where to obtain help.

“I appreciate making the orders that I have done, I have effectively deprived you of your life savings. I just hope you are not deprived of your livelihood as well.”

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