Liability for Criminal Damage in the United Kingdom
By the term criminal damage we mean the damage caused to any property by an individual. In cases when the damage caused to property is deemed to be criminal, a case is brought against such individual in a criminal court. The legislation applicable in cases of damage to property is the Criminal Damage Act of 1971(referred to as ‘the Act') in the United Kingdom. This is the primary legislation in the United Kingdom dealing with the subject. Earlier the Malicious Damages Act, 1861 was the legislation that dealt with criminal damage to property.
Under the Act, criminal damage is said to occur when an individual intentionally damages property belonging to other individuals. Such intentional act is generally not backed by a lawful excuse. In such a case, the individual who engages in the act of damaging property would be held guilty of the offence of criminal damage.
Thus, from the above definition we may derive the following elements of the offence of criminal damage;
There must have been damage
Such damage must have been caused to property
The property must belong to other individuals
No lawful excuse for the act of damaging property
Existence of intention to cause the damage or recklessness as regards the causing of damage
No specific definition of damage has been laid down under the Act. The courts determine the existence of damage depending upon the circumstances of each case. However, the courts determine damage by considering the following factors;
It is not necessary that damage caused should be permanent. It would result in damage even if paint or mud is smeared on a property.
It is not necessary that the damage should be visible. Even if the damage is not visible if the proper running of the property is affected then it would be regarded that the property has been damaged.
To establish criminal damage, the fact that the defendant acted in a reckless manner has to be proved. The definition of recklessness has been laid down under Section 1 of the Act. As per the provisions of Section 1 of the Act a person is said to be regarded as having acted recklessly as regards;
A circumstance, in case, he/ she is well aware of the risk associated
A consequence, in case, he/ she is aware of the risk that would occur
Additionally, in the given circumstance, it is unreasonable for the person concerned to undertake the risk.
The terms recklessness and intention are used interchangeably. Establishing one would suffice.
The definition of property has been laid down under Section 10 of the Act.
Belonging To Other Individual
Property said to belong to a person
When he/ she has custody or control over the property
When he/ she has a right over the property
When he/ she has a charge over the property.
Without Lawful Excuse
Section 5 of the Act lays down a list of lawful excuses that may form a defence in an action for criminal damage to property. If damage does not fall under any of these grounds, it would be considered to be damage under the Act. These include;
If the person believes that consent was given by the property owner
If the person caused the damage to protect his/ her own property, in case, the said property was in need of protection and the way adopted to protect the property was reasonable.
Intention To Endanger Life
Under Section 2 of the Act the act of damaging property so as to cause harm to life of another or being reckless as to the fact of endangering the life of another is an offence.
Penalty And Sentencing
In case, a person is found guilty under the provisions of the Act then;
If the damage caused is less than £5,000 the offender would be subjected to a maximum sentence of imprisonment for six months.
If the damage is over £5,000 then the offender would be subjected to imprisonment for a maximum period of ten years.
Criminal Liability of Rohit
In order to determine the criminal liability of Rohit in the instant case we would look into the circumstances of the case in the light of the above legal principles.
In the instant case the actions of Rohit;
Caused damage to the property of Bloke's Bar
The said damage was caused to the property of Bloke's bar, i.e., the property of another individual
There was no lawful excuse to Rohit for damaging the property belonging to Bloke's Bar
Rohit intended to cause damage to the property
In fact, when he was asked to stop, he threatened to damage or destroy all the antique property of the bar.
Moreover, his actions do not fall under the provisions of Section 5 of the Act.
His action was reckless
Thus, we may conclude that Rohit is criminally liable for the damage caused to the property of Bloke's Bar under the provisions of the Act. The sentencing of Rohit would depend upon the estimate of the damage caused.
Criminal Liability of Umut
Considering the actions of Umut in the light of the aforesaid legal provisions, we may derive the following;
Umut put the bar counter on fire, intentionally.
The property of Bloke's bar belonged to the employer of Umut, thus, he caused damaged to property belonging to another.
There was no lawful excuse for the said action of Umut. His actions do not fall under the provisions of Section 5 of the Act.
Thus, we may conclude that Umut has also committed the offence of causing damage to property of other individual under the provisions of the Act.
The sentencing of Umut would depend on the estimation of the damage caused as a consequence of his action. Though, it seems that the damage caused would be way above £5,000.
[accessed 29 July 2015].
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