Criminal Damage Defences

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  • Defences to Criminal Damage
    • Lawful Excuse (s.5)
      • both simple and aggravated arson constituted only where D acted without lawful excuse
        • S.5 provides 2 statutory excuses/justifications for CD simple (not aggravated)
      • No CD if believes at the time of CD that person in charge would have consented (S.5(2)(a)
        • Denton
          • D bears evidential burden (Hill and Hall [1989])
          • belief needed that owner would consent not that the act is immoral
      • No CD if committed to protect own property/right/interest in property he believes he holds
        • needs to believe that property is in immediate need of protection and...
          • ...and means of protection adopted were/would be reasonable in circumstance
            • D could destroy another's house to prevent fire spreading to engulf his property (Cope v Sharpe [1912])
        • s.5(2)(b) more expansive than common law - allows action to be taken to protect property interests/rights as well as substance
          • Chamberlain v Lindon (1977) - holder of a right of way not guilty of CD by demolishing wall blocking his right of way - not necessary that D had exhausted all other possible remedies (like court action)
            • no requirement that action taken be objectively necessary, its enough that D believed the property, right/interest was in need of protection and that the means he adopted were reasonable in the circumstances (Jones and Others [2004])
              • Hunt (1977) - set fire to bed to show fire alarms not working - held CD - did not commit damage to protect his own property
                • Hill and Hall [1989] parameter fence of US naval base - said that CD was to encourage removal of the base and prevent harm to their properties in future
                  • CA held that action was not to protect their homes but to remove the naval base
                    • Whilst property-protecting may have been their main aim, it was not the aim behind the wire cutting
                      • Blake v DPP [1993]
                      • Also - no immediate danger to their property
      • No CD is acts under duress/duress of circumstances, necessity of self-defence
        • e.g. After a party A is trapped in house with all doors locks, breaks window to escape - commits CD with mens rea - no liability - necessity
          • necessity justifies action reasonably taken as an act of self-preservation, where consequence is an inevitable and unavoidable side-effect of that act
            • not necessary to show, as it is with duress of circumstances that the threat to be avoided was of immediate death or serious injury
          • e.g. A fights with E in a car park and tries to ram her car, E attempting to escape smashes through the barrier, narrowly missing C
            • simple CD (not aggravated) lawful excuse? self-defence --> force has to be directed against the aggressor, force is used for purpose of escaping the threat, not for meeting it
              • force is against barrier and is reasonable and necessary - should be recognised as self-defence cf. Lloyd v DPP where it was held that damaging a wheel-clam to free an encumbered car was not a lawful excuse
  • Mens Rea
    • No need for belief to be justified as long as it is honestly held s.5(3)
      • even mistakes induced by drink could be relied upon
        • Jaggard v Dickinson (D broke into neighbour's house thinking whilst drunk was her friends
          • “the court is required by s5(3) to focus on the existence of the belief, not its intellectual soundness; and a belief can be just as much honestly held if it is induced by intoxication as if it stems from stupidity, forgetfulness or inattention” as per Mustill J 
          • NB. Jaggard not followed in Magee v CPS (2014)
        • limits to mistaken beliefs - Blake v DPP (1993) - vicar + HoP, protesting ag. war and nuclear weapons - CD to HoP in belief that he had consent of person who should authorise it - God - rejected


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