AN ASPIRING graffiti artist was sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid work after causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage by spray painting buildings in Newport.

Cwmbran Magistrates' Court heard that Justin Lewis, 18, of Clytha Square, was spotted near Granville Street by police on patrol on April 12 holding up a stencil against the wall of Masala Bazaar and spray painting a picture of a woman wearing a gas mask.

Prosecutor Mark Salter said: "The police reported there was no one else in the area, and at that stage officers decided to arrest Lewis."

"There are a number of residential and business areas in Liswerry which have been vandalised with this type of graffiti."

Mr Salter added Lewis often spray painted the word ‘Enemie’ during his graffiti sessions.

Lewis had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal damage. Magistrates heard he has 27 past convictions for 47 offences Defending, Paul Philpott said: "He has received mental health treatment and as part of this he was introduced to art, and was taught to channel negative energy into art.

"It seems to be very beneficial, and he is hoping to go to college to do a course in art later this year.

"It’s not just about graffiti – he is genuinely interested in art. For a young man with his past this interest in art something I hope we can latch on to.

"He was never challenged in the right way. He hung around with people who were bad influences. He was involved in alcohol and taking drugs."

"The signs are. in terms of his early offending behaviour he has moved away from all that. It is stupidness, foolishness and poor decision making skills which have led to these offences."

Chairman of the bench Keith Minton told Lewis that he is "very close to going to prison.

Lewis was given 180 hours of unpaid work, a 12-month community order and told to pay £105 in costs.