The offence of criminal damage is committed when a person destroys or damages property belonging to another person without lawful excuse, in contravention of the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
The damage caused as a result of the offence does not have to be permanent. As long as the damage caused affects the value or performance of the property, this is sufficient to be classed as an act of criminal damage.
Examples of criminal damage in its simplest form include:
- Breaking a chair belonging to your parents during an argument
- Smearing mud on the walls of a police cell
In addition to criminal damage caused deliberately, criminal damage can also be committed recklessly. To commit an offence recklessly, you do not have to have an intention to cause the damage, but you must be assumed:
- To have been aware that there was a risk of the damage being caused
- To be able to reasonably foresee that damage could be caused
An example of reckless criminal damage would be kicking a ball against a wall which misses and then smashes a window. There is sometimes a fine line between an act that someone may have committed recklessly as opposed to accidentally.
Defences to an act of criminal damage
You may have a defence to an allegation of criminal damage if one of the following mitigating circumstances applies:
- You did not destroy or damage the property
- You are the owner of the property
- You have a reasonable belief that the owner of the property would have consented to you destroying or damaging the property
- You caused the damage to protect life, prevent injury or stop unlawful imprisonment of a person
Where are cases of criminal damage heard?
The offence of criminal damage can be dealt with in both the magistrates’ court and the crown court. The decision as to which court your case will be heard in depends on the value of the damage caused by the offence.
Every case of criminal damage is different and the availability of a defence can only be considered on the merits of an individual case, which is why bespoke and expert legal advice is always required in cases of this nature.
If you are accused of committing criminal damage, get in touch with our team of specialist criminal damage solicitors who can advise and assist you in obtaining the best outcome in your case.
Nb. This guide is intended to give general information only and not intended to be used as the basis upon which advice is given, nor should it be relied upon as giving advice specific to a case or individual. Lawtons do not accept liability for anyone using this guide. Should you require specific advice in connection with a real case or situation, please contact us immediately so that we can provide specific advice.