A student activist has been ordered to pay just £22 after being found guilty of causing of more than £1,000 of criminal damage.

Charlie Turner, 19, a sociology student at the University of Brighton, was caught by police spraying red paint on the doors of Sovereign House, Church Street, Brighton, in the early hours of December 17 last year.

They pleaded not guilty to the charge but were convicted on March 29 following a trial at Brighton Magistrates’ Court earlier in the month.

District Judge Amanda Kelly ordered Turner, who uses the name Bliss Winters and Torch, to pay a victim surcharge of £22 but, after hearing submissions on the student’s finances, did not impose a fine, costs or compensation.

In delivering her judgment, the judge told the court that the spraying of the glass was an “act of expression and therefore that the defendant’s article 10 rights [under the European Convention on Human Rights] were engaged”.

She went on to say: “I accept that it was the defendant’s intention to send a message to the landlords of Sovereign House. In that sense, I reject the suggestion by the prosecution that this was a wholly gratuitous criminal act.”

The court had earlier heard that Turner, of Bedford Square, Brighton, was a member of Palestine Action, which has been targeting sites connected to the Israeli-owned arms manufacturer Elbit Systems.

The Argus: Members of Palestine Action protested outside the court during the trial earlier this month. Credit: thekinatonMembers of Palestine Action protested outside the court during the trial earlier this month. Credit: thekinaton

But the court was told there was no evidence Elbit had any connection to Sovereign House.

The judge continued: “Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the Palestine/Israeli conflict, I find that the defendant was genuinely and sincerely motivated by a desire to do something to assist the people of Palestine.

“It is not necessary or appropriate for this court to make any finding about the merits or otherwise of the defendant’s views and beliefs.

“What is important and relevant is the question of whether the defendant’s beliefs were honestly and sincerely held. I believe they were.”

However, the judge said the defendant did not have a “lawful” excuse for their actions.

“Whilst the defendant may honestly have believed his actions would help protect the people of Palestine, I do not consider that his actions were objectively capable in law of amounting to something done to protect another’s property.”

The student was also given a conditional discharge for three months.