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Criminal Damage


Law

Section 1 Criminal Damage Act 1971
Maximum Penalty

A fine of up to a maximum level 5 and/or 6 months’ imprisonment in the Magistrates’ Court.

Things to Know

If the value of the damage is less than £5,000.00 the case can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court unless the allegation involves a fire (arson) in which case the case may be dealt with in either Court. Similarly if the value is over £5,000.00 the case can be dealt with in either Court. The magistrates will have to decide whether they think that the case is suitable for them to deal with otherwise they will decline jurisdiction and the matter will have to be dealt with in the Crown Court. If the magistrates accept jurisdiction to deal with the case then the Defendant can choose to take the Crown Court if he/she so wishes.

If the value of the damage is less than £5,000.00 and does not involve arson the maximum penalty would be restricted to 3 months’ imprisonment or 6 months’ imprisonment if there are 2 offences.

If there is a racial or religiously aggravating connection to the offence then the case can be dealt with in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court.

In the Magistrates’ Court the maximum penalty is a fine of up to level 5 and/or 6 months’ imprisonment. In the Crown Court the maximum penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Whether the offence is considered racially and/or religiously aggravated depends upon whether, at the time of committing the offence, immediately before the offence or immediately after the offence, the offender demonstrates towards the victim’s property some hostility based upon the victim’s membership, or presumed membership, of a racial or religious group or if the offence is motivated by hostility towards members of a racial or religious group based on their membership of that group.

In deciding whether the case should be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court the magistrates will consider the value of damage caused, whether the damage caused was deliberate, the circumstances in which the damage was caused and whether there was any sexual, racial or religious background.

Defences Available

It is a defence to the charge if the Defendant can prove that he had a lawful excuse for destroying or damaging the property. For example:

  • If at the time he destroyed or damaged the property he believed that he was entitled to do so by virtue of the fact that the owner consented to the damage.
  • If at the time the property was destroyed the Defendant believed that the property belonged to him and that he had the right to so destroy it.
  • That at the time the property was destroyed the Defendant believed that the property belonged to another and was in immediate need of destruction with a view that there may be some danger or risk if the property in question was not destroyed.

It does not matter that the Defendant was wrong about any of the above beliefs as long as he “honestly held such belief”.

The Court must decide whether an offender intended the damage but an offender can also be guilty of the offence if the damage was caused recklessly.


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