A2 law criminal damage


Criminal Damage S1(1) Criminal Damage Act 1971

Criminal damage basic offence:

  • D without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property, belonging to another, intending to destroy/damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged.
  • ACTUS REUS- Destroy/damage (Gayford v Chouler 1898 slight damage, Fiak (2005), morphitis v salmon 1990);
  • Property- s10 (1) property must be tangible whether real or personal
  • Belonging to another- Property belongs to any person who a) has custody and control of it or b) having in it any proprietary right or interest or c) having a charge of it. For basic offence property must belong to another but for aggravated offence D can be guilty of destroying/damaging own property (Smith 1974)
  • MENS REA-intention or subjective recklessness as to damage or destroying property that belongs to another  (Pembliton 1874 / Smith 1974) D is only guilty if he realised risk of damage.
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Without Lawful Excuse!

Only for the basic offence can D not be guilty if he honestly beleives either that:

  • The owner ( or another person with rights in the property) would have consented to the damage (Denton 1982) ; or
  • S5 (2) (b) Other property was at risk and in need of immediate protection and what D did was reasonable in all the circumstances (Hunt 1978 /Blake v DPP 1993) D must be protecting property, D cannot cause criminal damage to something in order to protect it if it is not considered property (Cresswell and Currie 2006) and the act does not provide a defence where D  believes he is acting to protect a person from harm (Baker and Wilkins 1997)
  • Intoxicated mistakes- S5 (2) (a) and S5 (2) (b) allows the defence of mistake even where D is intoxicated (Jaggard v Dickinson 1980).
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Endangering life S1 (2) Criminal Justice Act 1971

Is the same as basic offence with the extension of b) D intends by the destruction or damage toendanger the life of another or being reckless as to whether the life of another would be thereby endangered. Much more serious than basic offence and carries maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 

  • ACTUS REUS-Danger to life- The danger to life must come from the destruction or damage, not from another source in which damage is caused (Steer 1987/ Webster 1995/ Warwick 1995
  • Life not actually endangered- Life does not have to be endangered (Sangha 1988) Subjective test did D realise that life might be endangered. If he did he is guilty even though there was no actual risk.
  • Own property- S1 (2) also applies to where the property damaged is the D's own (Merrick 1995)
  • MENS REA- Intention or recklessness as to destroying or damaging any property; and
  • intention or recklessness  as to whether the life is endangered by the destruction or damage.
  • Offence under S1 is committed by destroying or damaging property by fire.

    • Penalty is life imprisonment
    • Where aggravated arson is charged it must be proved that D intended or was reckless as to whether life was endangered by the damage or destruction by fire (Miller 1983).
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