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Threats to Destroy or Damage Property

In Victoria, Threats to Destroy or Damage Property is found in section 198 of the Crimes Act 1958. It is a criminal offence to threaten to damage or to destroy property, to either the owner of the property or to a third person, while intending them to believe it.

Have you been accused of Threats to Destroy or Damage Property? If you have, you should get in contact with us to arrange a conference with one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers. Our lawyers have enormous experience in representing people accused of Threats to Destroy or Damage Property and we can give you strategic advice.
 
threats to destroy or damage property
Police Interview
If the Police believe you have made Threats to Destroy or Damage Property, they will contact you to arrange a Police interview. Police officers are trained investigators and their main purpose for interviewing you is to try to gather evidence to build their case against you. Police officers are skilled in asking you questions in a way to make you look like you are not telling the truth. It is for these reasons, that you must get some advice from one of our lawyers about how to handle the interview process before you speak with the Police. There is no such thing as ‘off the record’, anything you tell a Police officer can appear in a statement if the Police think it helps their case.

You will undoubtedly have some important questions such as:

  • Do I have to answer all questions?
  • Will I look guilty if I say ‘no comment’?
  • Will the Police leave me alone if I answer their questions?
We can also attend the Police station with you and sit in on the interview if you feel more comfortable having someone there on your side. A Police interview can be daunting because it is typically conducted at a Police station with two Police officers.

Your defence begins at the very first interaction you have with Police.

Pleading Not Guilty
If you have been charged with Threats to Destroy or Damage Property, you should get in early to speak with one of our lawyers who can look at the brief of evidence and advise you on your prospects of successfully defending the charge. You want to get in early because there may be time sensitive evidence that needs to be gathered which the Police will overlook. This evidence may undermine the Police case.

The difference our firm offers our clients is that we are pro-active in our approach to representing people. We consider – are there witnesses who the Police have not spoken to? Is there evidence that Police have not gathered? Is there data that needs to be protected?

Our lawyers have achieved many acquittals for people charged with Threats to Destroy or Damage Property.

Pleading Guilty
Our lawyers have represented many people in Court who have decided to plead guilty to Threats to Destroy or Damage Property. The advantage this gives our lawyers is that we know what preparation should be done ahead of Court to get a favourable outcome. Generally speaking, things which lead to a good outcome include:

  • Gathering character references,
  • Writing an apology letter to the victim,
  • Undergoing a relevant course.
The key thing we have discovered after decades of experience is that your preparation before Court is the key to a great outcome. When you attend Court with a bundle of material demonstrating the positive steps you have taken in the lead up to Court, you can deal with anything that is thrown at you in Court.
Threats to Destroy or Damage Property is the sort of charge regularly heard in the Magistrates’ Court. That is if the value of the property threatened to be damaged or destroyed is less than $100,000 otherwise the charge will be heard in the County Court.
 
What is the legal definition of Threats to Destroy or Damage Property?
Section 198 of the Crimes Act provides that the threat must be made without lawful excuse for this offence to be made out. The Free Legal Dictionary defines ‘to destroy’ as to completely ruin a structure beyond the possibility of use.

Examples of Threats to Destroy or Damage Property
  • Telling your neighbour that you plan on damaging your ex-partner’s car to put her or him at risk of death;
  • Telling your colleague that you will damage property belonging to your employer, placing other colleagues or members of the public at risk of death.
Legislation
The legislation for this offence can be found on section 198 of Crimes Act 1958.

Elements of the offence
The Police must show that the accused:

  1. made a threat to another person that they would destroy or damage property belonging to that other person, a third party or the accused and another person; or
  2. the accused made a threat to another person that they would destroy or damage property that they believed or knew was likely to endanger the life of that other person or a third person.
“Can the police prove that you intended to endanger another person’s life when you made the threats to damage or destroy their property?”

Possible defences to this charge could be duress, a factual dispute, lack of intent or wrongful identification.

Questions a Judge would ask
If this charge was being determined in the County Court before a judge and jury, the judge may ask the jury:

  1. Are you satisfied that the property belonged to another person?
  2. Are you satisfied that the accused intended to endanger the victim’s life when he/she made the threats to destroy or damage their property?
Questions in cases like this
  • Did you make the threats?
  • What words did you say?
  • Did you intend to endanger the victim’s life when you made the threats?
You should call us to discuss your case with one of our experienced lawyers if you have been charged. Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not while have major implications for you and should be made after proper discussion with a criminal lawyer.
 

The charge of Threats to Destroy or Damage Property (s198 of the Crimes Act 1958) has a maximum penalty of level 6 imprisonment (5 years).

Sentencing in the higher courts
In the higher courts of Victoria, there were a total of 15 charges of Threaten to Destroy or Damage Property that were heard from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. These charges primarily resulted in a term of imprisonment (66.7%). There were also charges that led to a Community Correction Order (20%), partially suspended sentence (6.7%), and financial penalties (6.7%).

Of the charges that led to a prison term, 90% were sentenced to less than a year.1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.2

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts
In the Magistrates’ Courts, there were 898 cases (971 charges) of Make Threat to Destroy or Damage Property that were heard from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. Most of these cases resulted in a Community Correction Order (31.3%), followed by imprisonment (28.1%), fine (18.6%), adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal (14.8%), wholly suspended sentence (4.9%), and partially suspended sentence (1.9%).

There were 251 cases that resulted in imprisonment and 37.1% (majority) of these cases were sentenced to a term that was less than 3 months. The highest term imposed was more than 36 months (0.4%).

Of the fines imposed, majority fell under the “$500 < $1,000” category (38.1% for aggregate and 10.5% for non-aggregate). The highest amount imposed was somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000 (0.6% for aggregate).3

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.4


[1] Sentencing Advisory Council. “SACStat Higher Courts – Crimes Act 1958 (Vic): s 198(a) – threaten to destroy or damage property.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_6231_198_A.html (accessed December 17, 2018).
[2] Sentencing Advisory Council. “Suspended Sentence.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence (accessed December 17, 2018).
[3] Sentencing Advisory Council. “SAC Statistics – Crimes Act 1958 (Vic): s 198(a) – make threat to destroy or damage property.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/6231_198_a.html (accessed December 17, 2018).
[4] Sentencing Advisory Council. “Suspended Sentence.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence (accessed December 17, 2018).