Vandalism & Criminal Damage Solicitors

What to do if you have been accused of vandalism

Have you or a loved one been accused of vandalism and need urgent help? The specialist legal experts at Lawtons can help you to ensure the best possible outcome for your case. It’s crucial that you contact experienced solicitors on 0333 577 0522 as soon as possible.

Your legal representative will 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.

What is vandalism?

Vandalism covers a wide category of criminal offences, all of which are associated with intentional or reckless damage to property, structure or contents.

This may include:

  • Graffiti
  • Dumping rubbish
  • Smashing windows/fencing
  • Starting small fires
  • Damaging buildings or other structures
  • Altering or destroying street signs
  • Damaging cars and other vehicles

How is vandalism defined under UK law?

Vandalism describes 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.

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 us 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. It is possible that the damage need not be permanent, so someone that is arrested and who urinates in their cell would normally be prosecuted for criminal damage.

It is also possible to be prosecuted for criminal damage where the damage is done to property which is jointly owned by you, for example, a husband who either recklessly or intentionally damages a sofa which he owns with his wife could be prosecuted for criminal damage if the other party did not consent to that damage.

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 defacement or damage to a property, structure or contents

What is criminal damage?

The terms vandalism and criminal damage are often used interchangeably. When someone destroys or partially damages somebody else’s property without a lawful excuse, they have committed criminal damage – or vandalism. Even if the damage is temporary, if it affects the value of the property, criminal damage has been committed. 

The damage doesn’t have to be intentional: knowing that there was a risk of damage and acting recklessly and doing something which causes damage is enough to warrant vandalism charges.

What is the punishment for criminal damage in the UK?

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 at Lawtons, who will represent you in the best way possible to achieve the most favourable outcome.

What are the penalties for vandalism charges?

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.

What is the maximum sentence for vandalism?

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.

What defence is there for criminal damage charges?

Specialist criminal damage solicitors can examine the evidence available to prosecutors to find flaws in their case, potentially getting charges dropped or perhaps downgraded.

It could be that the police have identified the wrong person and your lawyers are able to prove a case of mistaken identity. Or the actions were not reckless or the damage inflicted was not intentional.

Another defence is the ‘lawful excuse’, which might involve a need to protect the defendant’s own property, or that of another person. Alternatively, the defendant can argue that they believed the owner of the property/items damaged had consented to the damage, or would have done if they’d known about the damage and the circumstances surrounding it.

Whatever the situation, if you’re facing charges related to any kind of vandalism or criminal damage, you should have expert legal representation from the very beginning. Don’t hesitate to get in touch today or call us on 0333 577 0522 to enlist the help of an expert criminal damage lawyer.

FAQs about vandalism

What’s the difference between vandalism and criminal damage?

Vandalism is an offence which comes under the broader category of criminal damage, meaning that one is not more serious than the other. However, there are other types of criminal damage under UK law such as arson.

What’s the most serious case of vandalism?

Some instances of vandalism can be severe, resulting in serious injury and in some extreme cases, death. As a result, the Criminal Damage Act includes an offence of causing damage by fire or arson with the intention of endangering life.

Is graffiti always considered vandalism?

Graffiti is often considered a form of vandalism, but in very rare cases, as with the artist Banksy, 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.

Am I responsible for my child’s crime in the UK?

Parents are not liable for personal injury, loss or damage that has been caused by their child in the UK. However, you can be held liable for your child’s actions if you were negligent, for example allowing the child’s actions or failing to prevent a certain incident – but this wouldn’t be a criminal offence.

Is keying or scratching a car a crime in the UK?

Yes, as it damages another person’s property, it is illegal. If you have been accused of damaging another person’s vehicle in any way, contact us for advice.