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.
Examples of Destroying or Damaging Property
- 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
What are some of the possible defences to a Destroying or Damaging Property charge?
- 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.
“Did you damage or destroy someone else’s property?”
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.
The section that covers this offence is section 197 of the Crimes Act 1958.1
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.
Other Important Resources
Case study related to Destroying or Damaging Property charge
- Pleading Guilty to Dangerous Driving
- Family Violence Offences – Withdrawn
- Downgrading Threat to Kill and Criminal Damage
- Criminal Damage and Assault Charges – Accused With Schizophrenia
- Withdrawing a Reckless Conduct Endangering Serious Injury Charge
 Crimes Act 1958 – Section 197
(2) A person who intentionally and without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property, intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another, shall be guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 4 imprisonment (15 years maximum).
(3) A person who dishonestly, with a view to gain for himself or another, destroys or damages any property shall be guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).
(4) For the purposes of subsections (1) and (2) a person who destroys or damages property shall be taken as doing so intentionally if, but only if—
(a) his purpose or one of his purposes is to destroy or damage property; or
(b) he knows or believes that his conduct is more likely than not to result in destruction of or damage to property.
(5) For the purposes of subsection (2), a person who destroys or damages property shall be treated as intending thereby to endanger the life of another if, but only if—
(a) his purpose or one of his purposes is to endanger the life of another by the destruction or damage; or
(b) he knows or believes that the life of another is more likely than not to be endangered by the destruction or damage.
(6) An offence against this section committed by destroying or damaging property by fire shall be charged as arson.
(7) A person guilty of arson is liable to level 4 imprisonment (15 years maximum) despite anything to the contrary in this section.