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Destroying or Damaging Property

– section 197 of the Crimes Act 1958

This offence means exactly what it says. It has an extra element that is destroying or damaging property with the purpose of endangering someone else’s life or gaining something.

  • A group of school kids smash some of the windows at their school
  • Someone sets fire to a shed where there are homeless people living inside
  • A woman destroys part of her competitor’s factory

  • You did not destroy or damage property
  • You did not intend to destroy or damage the property
  • You did not intend to endanger the life of someone else
  • You did not gain any benefit
There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.

Questions that are asked in cases like this:
  • How was the property destroyed or damaged?
  • Can they prove you destroyed or damaged the property?
  • Was anyone’s life endangered?
  • Can they prove you knew someone’s life would be endangered?
  • Was anything gained?
  • Can they prove that you gained anything?

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge
The maximum penalty for destroying or damaging property is level 5 imprisonment (10 years).

The maximum penalty for destroying or damaging property and endangering the life of another person is level 4 imprisonment (15 years); and for gaining a benefit is level 5 imprisonment (10 years).

If the property is destroyed or damaged by fire, the offence is arson and the maximum penalty is level 4 imprisonment (15 years).

This charge may be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or County Court.
 
What is the legal definition of Destroying or Damaging Property ?
Intentionally destroying or damaging property belonging to another person. Endangering the life of another person; or gaining a benefit from destroying or damaging property belonging to another person.

“Did you damage or destroy someone else’s property?”

The Law
The section that covers this offence is section 197 of the Crimes Act 1958.
 
What can you be sentenced to for this charge?
Destroying or damaging property is a serious offence and you are likely to face a prison term for cases where another person’s life has been endangered or where the extent of the destruction to property is severe. In cases where there is minimal damage you may only face a fine.
 

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