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THE BASIC OFFENCE OF CRIMINAL DAMAGE
The basic offence is set out in s1(1) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 which states that:
`A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property
belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or
being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or
damaged shall be guilty of an offence.
Destroy or damage
ROE v KINGERLEE (1986) Defendant had smeared mud on the walls of a police cell. It cost
£7 to have it cleaned off. This was held to be (criminal) damage even though it was not permanent.
Court commented that whether property has been damaged is a `matter of fact and degree' (what
and how much damage?)
MORPHITIS v SALMON (1990) The defendant caused scratches to a scaffolding pole. The
Court held this was not damage as scaffolding was likely to get scratched in ordinary use and a
scratch did not affect its usefulness or integrity. However, a scratch on car would almost certainly be
BLAKE v DPP (1993) Defendant wrote a Biblical quotation on a concrete pillar. This needed to
be cleaned off and so it was held to be criminal damage. This follows Roe v Kingerlee (1986). The
courts will consider whether it has cost money, time and/or effort to remove the damage.
A (A Juvenile) v R (1978) spat at a policeman and spit landed on the policeman's uniform. It
was held that this was not damaged as it could be wiped off with a wet cloth with very little effort.
FIAK (2005) was arrested on suspicion of being in charge of a vehicle when he was over the limit
for alcohol, and for assault on a police officer. He was taken to a police station and placed in a cell.
He put a blanket in the toilet in the cell and flushed the toilet several times. This caused water to
overflow and flood the cell and two adjoining cells. The blanket was not visibly soiled but it had to
be cleaned and dried before it could be used again. The cells also had to be cleaned. This was held
to be criminal damage.
Mens rea of criminal damage
The defendant must do the damage either intentionally or recklessly.
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PEMBLITON (1874) threw a stone at some men with whom he had been fighting. The stone
missed them but hit and broke a window. Pembliton was not guilty of causing damage to the
window as he had no intention to damage the window (or any other property) even though he
intended to throw the stone.
G AND ANOTHER (2003) were two boys aged 11 and 12 years.…read more
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Actus reus: The actual spot that the defendant `makes off' from is usually the place or point where
payment is required. The payment must be required or expected at the time the defendant makes
off, and payment must be legally enforceable. Common examples of goods or services include filling
a car with petrol and driving off, or eating in a restaurant and leaving without paying.
Mens rea: dishonesty (Ghosh test) knowledge that payment is required
intend to avoid payment permanently.…read more