Vandalism covers a wide category of criminal offences, all associated with intentional or reckless damage to property, structure or contents.
The offence of vandalism often involves youths under the age of 17 and a variety of different circumstances, meaning charges are not as straightforward as in some other cases.
It is strongly advised that you seek the advice of a specialist vandalism solicitor, who will represent you in the best way possible in your individual case to achieve the most favourable outcome.
What does vandalism mean as defined by the law?
Vandalism is a term used to describe destruction or criminal damage to property belonging to another individual, for example smashing the windows of someone’s car. Some criminal damage offences are still covered by the Malicious Damage Act 1861, however the Criminal Damage Act 1971 is the primary legislation for the criminal offence of vandalism or criminal damage.
Graffiti is often considered a form of vandalism, but as an art form it can be considered extremely valuable. If permission is given by the property owner, graffiti is classified as an art form and considered to be legal.
Law that relates to vandalism highlights several factors that must be present for a case to be heard in court:
- The property, structure or contents must belong to someone else
- There was clear intention or reckless behaviour that lead to the defacing or damage to property, structure or contents
- Any damage that occurred was undertaken without the consent of the owner
If any of these elements are missing in a criminal act of vandalism, it may be possible for your solicitor to argue that the damage was not caused unlawfully or indeed wilfully.
It is worth noting that the law does not define the actual definition of damage caused and magistrates can only judge this on the available facts of the individual case.
There are also likely to be many aggravating and mitigating circumstances that surround the act of vandalism, which will all affect the outcome of the case. These can include but are not exclusive to:
- Emotional circumstances where a partner’s car or property has been intentionally damaged
- Any element of recklessness that is deemed to affect the defacement or damage to a property, structure or contents
What are the penalties for vandalism?
Penalties for the criminal act of vandalism will depend very much on the circumstances cited, but will often seek to cover the damage caused and the cost of repairs. If any damage caused is valued at less than £5,000 a fine of £2,500 can be granted, or a sentence of three months’ imprisonment.
For damage that totals more than £5,000, the maximum penalty matches the £5,000. The prison sentence – if applicable – is a maximum term of six months. If an act of vandalism is committed by an individual who is aged under 17, the focus of sentencing changes to preventative measures, which are more likely to include on the spot fines or community service.
Many instances of vandalism can be severe, resulting in serious injury and in some extreme cases, death. As a result, the Criminal Damage Act also includes an offence of causing damage with the intention of endangering life. Section 2 of the Act makes it an offence for a person to destroy or damage property intending thereby to endanger the life of another or being reckless as to whether the life of another would thereby be endangered.
What to do if you are accused of vandalism
To ensure the most favourable outcome in your individual case, we would advise you to contact a specialist solicitor as soon as you are able to do so. Your legal representative can work through all the details of your case and identify the best lines of defence.
At Lawtons we can provide 24 hour legal assistance alongside effective representation should your case be sent to court.