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Criminal damage, as the title suggests, is a criminal offence involving the destruction of property by an individual or a group of individuals. It is also sometimes referred to as vandalism. Criminal damage and vandalism cover a wide range of criminal offences that are all concerned with the defacement and/or destruction of property. Although some criminal damage offences are still covered by the Malicious Damage Act 1861, the Criminal Damage Act 1971 is the primary piece of legislation for the criminal offence of vandalism and criminal damage. According to the Act, anyone who, without lawful excuse, sets out to destroy, destroys or damages property which does not belong to him or her or being reckless enough as to not be concerned whether the property will be destroyed or damaged by their actions, shall be guilty of the offence of criminal damage.

An erroneous belief that consent was given to destroy the property by the owner may not be accepted as a full defence but the circumstances surrounding such belief, however erroneous, may be taken into consideration. Section 5 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 provides a number of circumstances under which lawful consent may be deemed to have been given or where the offender had acted in good spirit and without malice.

Criminal Damage and Vandalism

Charged with Criminal Damage?

If you have been charged with criminal damage or vandalism and you are searching for the right firm of solicitors to represent you, look no further than us. Criminal damage to property and arson is one of our special areas of expertise. Criminal damage cases can be as simple and as complex as possible. For the assurance and peace of mind that your interest is being adequately protected through the investigation and trial process however simple or complicated, speak to one of our criminal defence lawyers. The punishment for criminal damage may be a custodial sentence. The effect this is bound to have on convicted offenders may be significant.

Endangering Lives

A number of offences were created by the Criminal Damage Act for the purpose of protecting property rights. The Act is a catalogue of the several offences which lead to criminal damage and vandalism as well as those which directly constitute criminal damage. Arson or destruction of property by deliberately starting a fire is a form of criminal damage. Many instances of criminal damage and vandalism can be quite serious; occasioning serious injury and in some extreme cases, fatality. As such, the Act also creates the offence of causing damage with the intention of endangering life. This is covered by Section 2 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 which 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.

Elements of Criminal Damage & Vandalism

For an allegation of criminal damage and vandalism to be brought against an individual, the specific elements mentioned by the Criminal Damage Act must be present. There must be a property which forms the subject of the crime, for instance and such property must belong to belong to someone else. The next element required by law for criminal damage offence is the offender’s intention to destroy the property or his or her recklessness as to whether or not damage or destruction occurs to the property or properties as the case may be. The damage to property must have been carried out without lawful excuse or express content. If any of these elements is missing, it may be possible for us to argue that the damage was not caused unlawfully or indeed wilfully.

In any event, the defence we will need to build up on behalf of a client facing allegations of criminal damage depend on a number of factors. This is because there can be aggravating or mitigating circumstances which will determine the level of seriousness the court is likely to attach to the case. In our painstaking approach to case preparation, we will first and foremost establish the possible level of seriousness and thereafter build our defence strategy from that angle. The definition of damage is not provided in the Act to begin with and can only be judged on the available facts of the case as well as pictures in most cases.

Charges for criminal damage are therefore not as straight forward as most other criminal offences. For instance, the court is unlikely to attach the same level of seriousness to a case where the offender lashes out in emotional circumstances to smear his or her partner’s car with removable paint as another case where the offender calmly and deliberately slashes all four tires on the car while smashing the windows and windscreens at the same time. In the case of the latter, the criminal damage charge will be considerable. In practically every criminal law case our defence experts have defended, and they have defended cases too numerous to recount, the surrounding circumstances are always taken into consideration. While this may not exactly form legal basis for exculpation of culpability, they nevertheless potentially act as mitigating factors in the offender’s favour.

Recklessness In Criminal Damage

Recklessness plays a significant part in the sentencing for criminal damage to property charges. It can indeed be argued that the issue of recklessness is an essential ingredient of a criminal damage charge. How does the prosecution prove that the offender’s manner was reckless or that he or she had no regard for the damage being done to the property in question? In the case of arson, is there a difference between someone carelessly falling asleep without putting their cigarette out or another party who deliberately and recklessly throws a burning item into a property? The emphatic answer is ‘yes’. The former will not even be considered to be arson unless it can be established that although the person had started the fire carelessly, he or she had intended the result in any event.

The definition of recklessness is provided under Sec 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. According to the Act, a person can be deemed to have acted recklessly while destroying or damaging another’s property if he or she was aware at the time of the risk of such destruction and/or damage by virtue of their actions. Furthermore, recklessness can be established where the person was aware of the likely result of their actions and the risk that damage would occur.

In other words, in the absence of established recklessness, criminal damage may be hard for the prosecution to prove. With our solicitors’ eagle eyes for details and meticulous case preparation, essential facts like this do not escape our attention and we would be capitalising on the deficiency in the prosecution’s case to exonerate our client.

Criminal Damage Sentencing

Criminal damage and vandalism, by virtue of the other offences associated with it and especially the possibility of putting lives in danger is considered quite a serious offence. This is evident in the sentencing guideline for criminal damage to property and the severity of the punishments that can be awarded by the court upon conviction. The loss; financial, emotional, psychological and the likes occasioned by the damage is usually useful in the determination of the offender’s punishment. In cases where the property destroyed does not exceed £5,000 for instance, the punishment will be a maximum stay of 6 months in prison. Where the loss caused by the damage exceeds £5,000 however, an offender may be looking at getting a custodial sentence as long as 10 years. In general, punishments for criminal damage offences range from a fixed penalty to life imprisonment. In some cases, the offender may also be ordered by the court to compensate the victim.

Criminal Damage and Arson Defence Solicitors

At London’s most prominent criminal defence law networks, we are criminal lawyers who are vastly experienced in providing advice on the above issues relating to criminal damage and vandalism, amongst other numerous criminal matters. We will be happy to hear from you and to be able to assist in one of the most difficult times of most of our clients’ lives. Facing a criminal charge can be a rather disturbing experience for most people and we thoroughly understand this. Our expertise extends to our ability to make our clients feel at ease and to exhibit to them that they matter to us. Call us today and let us show you why the large majority of our clients are repeat clients or those introduced to us by other clients.


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