Ben Gittany, the man who vandalised the beloved George Michael mural in Sydney’s inner-west during the postal survey, was convicted of malicious damage on Friday.

The mural, nicknamed ‘Saint George’, was painted by artist Scott Marsh in January last year and became a lightning rod on the ‘Christian Lives Matter’ Facebook page during the postal survey last year, Gay Star News reported.

Acting on the belief that the image of George Michael as a saint was disrespecting his religion, Gittany was filmed covering the mural in black paint in November just days after the postal survey results were announced.

A petition supporting Gittany’s actions circulated at the time, garnering over 34,000 signatures.

Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman dismissed Gittany’s religious beliefs as grounds for his actions, however, and found him guilty of malicious damage.

“We live in a pluralist society,” Huntsman told the court. “Art is a tangible thing.”

Australian icon Pauline Pantsdown – aka Simon Hunt – was present at the court on Friday, and tweeted out his gratitude over the ruling.

“A big day in Newtown Court today with the magistrate acknowledging a pluralistic society; acknowledging queer community & art; & making it clear that “religious beliefs” are no excuse for smashing shit up,” he said.

Residents in the area have reportedly received death threats since the vandalism.

“This mural was never about attacking religion – it was about honoring our friend and community icon,” one resident said.

“The mural framed him as a saint because he is a saint for us.”

A day after the ruling, Pantsdown noted that the Facebook group that helped inspire Gittany to damage the mural has not reacted well to the outcome of the case.

The crew of queers who showed up to court in t-shirts bearing an image of the mural retired to The Courthouse Hotel for a beer following the ruling.

The George Michael mural was also vandalised during the postal survey period, with residents finding it pelted with eggs and vandalised with graffiti in October.

Gittany is due to be sentenced in September.

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