A professional graffiti artist has been ordered not to go within a mile of any Games site for more than three months after being arrested over years-old allegations just ten days before the Opening Ceremony. Police were forced to deny using the years-old criminal allegations as a ploy to keep the Olympics free from troublemakers.
Darren Cullen, who runs a business creating legal graffiti works, was one of four graffiti artists arrested by British Transport Police yesterday over allegations of criminal damage, some of which date back to 2007. The groups' bail conditions contain an order relating to every Olympic site.
But, speaking to The Independent, he insisted he has never been involved in any illegal graffiti and questioned the motive behind the controversial stipulation.
He said he did not know any of the other people arrested yesterday. But he added that he has heard of "a few" contemporaries who he believed were arrested on suspicion of similar offences and being given the same bail conditions.
"When I was arrested, I asked if this was linked to the Games and the officer smiled," he said. He added that he has been arrested over his involvement with graffiti gangs before but has never been convicted. "I used to associate with people who did illegal graffiti, but I did not do it myself," he said.
"When they told me what I was being arrested for, I was confused. They told me that the questions they wanted to ask me were related to a website on the history of graffiti art I created for some clients," said Mr Cullen, whose graffiti name is "Ser".
But, while British Transport Police admitted the bail condition relating to the Games was inserted "to protect the integrity" of the Olympics, a source insisted that the arrests were part of a long-term investigation and their timing was coincidental. "The arrests would have been made regardless of when the Olympics were due to happen," he said.
Reports began to surface earlier today on the graffiti website The London Vandal that up to 30 artists were arrested yesterday morning as part of a major operation by police. But British Transport Police contradicted that figure, saying that only four men were arrested.
A spokesman confirmed that a 38-year-old and a 25-year-old from Kent, an 18-year-old from London and a 32-year-old from Surrey were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.
He added: "This was in connection with a live and ongoing criminal investigation into linked incidents of criminal damage committed between January 2007 and July 2012. Two of the men were also further arrested on suspicion of inciting criminal damage," said the spokesman. All four were taken into custody at Victoria train station in central London and bailed until November.
The document, seen by The Independent, orders them not to use the railways, the Tubes or any trams. It also bans them from possessing any spray paint, marker pens, or similar and from communicating with each other.
And the Olympics clause orders them not to go within "a mile of any Olympic venue in London or elsewhere in England".