Three mainelementsof Criminal damage governedbythe Criminal DamagesAct1971 s1.
Criminal Damage s1(1)
Criminal Damage withintenttoendangerlife s1(2)
If the offence iscriminal damage withintenttoendangerlife then s1(2) ands1(3) shouldbe used.
‘a person who withoutlawful excusedestroys or damagesany property belongingtoanother
intendingto destroy or damageany suchproperty or beingreckless as to whether anysuch
property wouldbe destroyed or damaged shallbe guilty of an offence.’
Destroysor damages,property,belongingtoanother,withoutlawful excuse.
Destroys or Damages
Samuelsv Stubbs (1972) WaltersJ saidit was difficulttolaydowna general rule aboutwhatwould
amountto damage.It woulddependonthe particularcircumstances,type of damage andhow badly
Hardman v ChiefConstable of AvonConstabulary (1986) membersof the CND,nuclear
disarmamentgroup, usedwatersoluble paintsonthe pavementtosymbolise vaporisedvictimsof
year anniversary.Thiswashedawaywithrainbuttheir convictionforcriminal
damage was upheldasthe council wasput to the expense of cleaningthe pavements.
Compare that case with R v A (1978) where the d spat ona policeman’sovercoatbutwasnotguilty
of criminal damage asthe spitcouldhave easilybeenwipedawaywithadampcloth.It would
appearto be criminal damage if someoneisputto the expenseof repairingorcleaning.
It will notamountto criminal damage if there isnoimpairmentof use asshownin Morphitisv
Salmon (1990) where a scratch on some scaffoldingwasnotdeemedascriminal damage asitdid
not preventitsuse oraffectitsvalue.
The same definitionforpropertyasfoundinTheftshouldbe appliedwithone real difference,
intangible propertycanbe stolenbutcannotbe damaged.
The propertymustbelongtoanother.Similartotheft,thisiswide andincludescustodyorcontrol of
propertyandhavingsome rightin the property.Youcannot be charge fordestroyingyourown
property,norcan you be chargedwhere youbelievethe propertyisyourown.Thisbelief doesnot
have to be justifiedaslongasit isheldhonestly.
Smith (1974) tenantshadthe permissionof theirlandlordtoinstall wiringinhisproperty.Before
leavingthe tenantsremovedthe wiringbutindoingsodamagedthe floorboards.Once the wires
were downtheywere consideredthe propertyof the landlordbuttheirconvictionwasquashedby
the CoA onthe basisthattheyhonestlybelievedthe wireswere theirown.
There isa defence of lawfulexcusethatcanbe reliedupon.Thisisnotapplicable tocriminal damage
endangeringlife.Lawful excuse iswhere the ddestroyspropertyinthe beliefthat;
The personentitledtoconsentwouldhave consented tothe destructionordamage if they
had knownaboutitand its circumstancess5(2)(a) or
It was necessaryinordertoprotectpropertybelongingto himself oranotherwhichhe
believedwasinimmediate needof protectionandhe believedthe meansadoptedwas
reasonable,havingregardtoall the circumstancess5(2)(b).
Jaggard v Dickenson(1981) d was drunkand broke intoa house believingitwasa friend’shouse.
She believedthatherfriendwouldhave consentedtothe damage caused.Onappeal the court said
that she shouldbe acquitted because herdrunkennessshouldnotplayafactor,her beliefwas
DPP v Blake (1993) a vicaruseda markerpento write biblical quotationsonawall outside
parliament.He arguedconsent,statinghe hadGod’sconsent.He failedasthe act mentionsnothing
DPP v Blake (1993) the vicaralso claimedthatwithhisprotest he wasaimingtoprotect the property
of the people of the Gulf.He failedbecausethe peopleof the Gulf were toofaraway to benefitfrom
Chamberlinv Lindon (1998) d wasallowedthe defence whenhe destroyeda neighbour’s wall
because he honestlybelievedthatthe wall wasblockinghisrightof accessand he adopteda
reasonable course of action.
Note that recklessnessisnowsubjectiverecklessness.Thiscomesfromthe case of Gemmell and
Richards (2003). The Lords,nowthe Supreme Courtoverruledtheirowndecisioninthe case of
Caldwell (1982). The questionthe courtsask isdid the d’recognise the riskof damagingor
destroyingproperty(andof endangeringlife forthe aggravatedoffence?
Gemmell andRichards (2003) two boys,aged11 and 13 setfire to some papersat the back of a
shopand damagedseveral buildings. Theywere convictedof arsononthe basisof Caldwell (the
damage was obvioustoa reasonable person.) Onappeal tothe Lords,theyusedthe Practice
Statement1966 to overrule theirpreviousdecision.Theysaidthatthe previouslaw waswrongand
the d’ had to understandthat there wassome sortof risk.
Destroyingor damaging property withintent to endangerlife.
Alsoknownbyaggravatedcriminal damage,iscoveredbySection1(2) of the Criminal Damage Act
(2) A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property, whether
belonging to himself or another—
(a) intending to destroy or damage any property or being reckless as to
whether any property would be destroyed or damaged; and
(b) intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another or
being reckless as to whether the life of another would be thereby
shall be guilty of an offence.
This is similar to criminal damage but is regarded much more serious as the d’ intended to or
was reckless with regard to endangering life. This crime carries a maximum sentence of life
imprisonment. The other main difference is that the damage does not have to be to property
belonging to another. It is also important to note that there does not have to be danger to life,
it is enough that the d’ realised that life would be endangered.
“intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another” can be illustrated
by the case of Steer (1987) where the d’ shot a window of a former business partner. He
appealed and was successful. HL held that the danger had to come from the damage to the
property (broken glass) rather than the original action (firing the shot.)
(3) An offence committed under this section by destroying or damaging property by fire
shall be charged as arson.
Thisagain isconsideredaveryseriousoffence carryingamaximumsentenceof life.Itiscriminal
damage but if the damage is caused byfire itis consideredarson.
MPC v Caldwell (1982) where the dwas convictedof arsonwhenhe setfire to a chair ina hotel he
workedin.The fire wasput outbefore anyone wasinjuredbuthe hadendangeredthe livesof the
Elliotv C (1983) a 14 year oldgirl withverylow intelligence wasconvictedof arsonbysettingher
neighbour’sshedalight.She putwhite spiritonthe floorandsetfire to itto stay warm.The oldtest
of objective reasonablenesswasusedandshe wasjudgedbythe standardof the reasonable person.
Wouldthe reasonable personhaddone the same?Underthe more recenttestshe wouldnothave
Denton (1982) d setfire to hisemployer’smill andsuccessfullyarguedthatthe ownerhad
consentedashe wanted to fraudulentlyclaimmoneythroughthe insurance.The courtsaidthatif
the damage was causedwiththe intenttoendangerlife,thennodefence wouldhave been