The man who vandalised the beloved George Michael mural has been sentenced to 300 hours of community service and handed a $14,000 fine.

Ben Gittany was convicted of malicious damage in July after covering the artwork in black paint following the postal survey last year.

The mural, which was painted by artist Scott Marsh and depicts Michael as a saint, was also pelted with eggs and graffitied with slurs during the survey period.

“I’m defending my religion, that’s exactly what I’m doing,” said Gittany after he was caught on video damaging the mural.

An online petition supporting Gittany after he was charged was circulated by the Christian Lives Matter Facebook group, where much of the outrage over the mural began, garnering tens of thousands of signatures.

In handing down Gittany’s sentence, Local Court magistrate Carolyn Huntsman raised the question of whether he should spend time in prison, but also noted that Gittany acknowledged the grief he had caused because Michael was a personal friend of one of the residents of the property where the mural was painted, Buzzfeed reported.

“There is no expression in the letter it was wrong and you harmed a community,” Huntsman said.

“You travelled to someone else’s community and imposed your views on them with an act that was criminal and harmful.

“What was left [on the wall] was a large area of black paint which arguably was a disturbing message of rejection to the community and arguably a contempt for other people.

“We are not a community where violence, criminal acts and property destruction are sanctioned because you have different beliefs to other people.

“They had to look at it for months. It distressed the owner and the community, and it was extensive.”

Huntsman ordered Gittany to spend 300 hours conducting community service, including washing damaged walls, as well as $14,000 compensation.

“Clearly there’s an incredible amount of black paint on that wall. It needs to be primed, it’s a very tall wall and there is a need for lift hire,” she said.

Prosecutors asked for a further $8,000 fine to graffiti-proof the re-painted mural, but Huntsman did not consider this compensation of damages.

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