Criminal Damage

Criminal Damage Act 1971: "A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another either intentionally or recklessly."

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Criminal Damage

3 types: basic offence s1(1), aggravated offence s1(2) or arson s1(3).

Criminal Damage Act 1971: "A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another either intentionally or recklessly."

Actus Reus: (3 parts)

1) Damages/destroys

  • words not defined in the act, courts held that:

destroys = rendering the property useless, in addition to total destruction (not fit for purpose). Does not have to be completely destroyed (e.g. wide screen TV - screen cracked).

damage = where property is made imperfect/inoperative or if the harm affects its usefulness or value. - TIME, MONEY AND EFFORT TO RETURN PROPERTY BACK TO ITS ORIGINAL STATE.

Samuels v Stubbs - Policemans cap was trampled. Held: "a temporary cessation of function is enough." D guilty.

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Roe v Kingerlee - D smeared mud on police cell wall, cost £7 to clean. Held: if the damage cost money to clean, D guilty.

A v R - D spat on policemans raincoat. Held: not guilty, spit can easily be wiped off.

Hardman v ccAvon - D drew on pavement with water soluble paint. Held: criminal damage as time, money and effort were required.

Morphitis - scratch on scaffolding pole = not criminal damage, did not impair its usefulness or value.

2) Property

  • has the same meaning as in theft: tangibles including money and animals. But land can be damaged.
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Belonging to another

3) Belonging to another

  • same meaning as in theft: can damage your own property BUT not if it is in your possession

Smith - D ripped out wiring from the walls he installed when he was leaving his rented flat, causing damage. D believed he was entitled to the property. Held: if D honestly believed the property is his own, then it is irrelevant to consider whether the belief was justified.

Mens Rea:

D must either have intended the damage, or have known there was a risk of damage but carried on regardless.

  • Intention = direct/oblique
  • Recklessness = Cunningham subjective (confirmed by R v G)
  • Dishonesty applies (so do 3 negatives - would give a lawful excuse)
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Defence: Lawful excuse

s5(2) Criminal Damage Act 1971: "D will have a defence in 2 situations:

  • s5(2)(a) - if D believes the owner would have consented to the damage if they had known the facts
  • s5(2)(b) - where D damages/destroys property to protect his own.

BUT a) the property must be in need of immediate protection

        b) D acted reasonably

s5(3): "it is immaterial whether D's belief is justified as long as it is honestly held."

Jaggard v Dickinson - D broke into a house mistakenly believing it was her friends, whilst she was drunk. D claimed her friend would have consented. Held: defence of lawful excuse allowed.

Aggravated Criminal Damage - s1(2)

  • a danger to life

s1(2): "where D damages or destroys property belonging to himself or another, intentionally or recklessly AND as a result intentionally or recklessly endangering life."


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Aggravated Criminal Damage

Sangha - Held: "it is not a requirement that someones life must actually be put at risk , it is enough that a reasonable man would have believed this."

Actus Reus:

  • similar to the basic offence, but property can belong to D.
  • Lawful excuse does not apply

Danger to life:

Steer - Held: "the danger to life must come directly from the damage to property and not from any other source."

Arson - s1(3)


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