Under the Criminal Damage Act of 1971, there are three different offences of criminal damage. Simple Criminal Damage, Aggravated Criminal Damage, and Criminal Damage by Arson.
1. Simple Criminal Damage
Simple Criminal Damage is under s.1(1) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. It states that a person is guilty of an offence of criminal damage if they intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage property belonging to another person without a lawful excuse. The maximum sentence if tried on indictment is 10 years.
The actus reus of simple criminal damage is when a person destroys or damages property belonging to another person. There is no actual statutory definition of what destroy or damage consists of, however any reduction in value is sufficient for liability of criminal damage. (Roper v Knott) In terms of property, the definition is under s.10(1) of the Act and states that property is anything tangible, real or personal. Further, s.10(2) states that property is regarded as belonging to another if any person has control over it, a proprietary interest in it or a charge on it.
The mens rea consists of both the intention and the recklessness to the destruction or damaging of another person’s property. The defendant must know that the property they are damaging does not belong to them or they cannot be held criminally liable. (R v Smith) To prove recklessness, the courts will apply a subjective test
2. Aggravated Criminal Damage
Aggravated Criminal Damage is under s.1(2) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. It is where someone is held guilty of an offence, without a lawful excuse who destroys or damages property with the intent on or being reckless in endangering life. For example, cutting down a tree while there are people standing below. The maximum sentence for aggravated criminal damage is life imprisonment.
Actus reus of aggravated criminal damage
The actus reus of aggravated criminal damage is when a person destroys or damages property belonging to himself or another that endangers life. It holds the same actus reus as simple criminal damage however, in this instance a person can be held liable even if it is their own property.
Mens rea of aggravated criminal damage
The defendant must intend or be reckless wen destroying or damaging ones property and must intend or be reckless to the endangerment of life.
3. Criminal Damage by Arson s.1(3)
When a defendant causes destruction or damage through either simple criminal damage (s.1(1)) or through aggravated criminal damage (s.1(2)); if it arises through fire, the defendant is also liable under s. 1(2) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
Lawful excuse for Criminal Damage:
Section 5 (2) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 states that there are two different occasions that may amount to a lawful excuse for criminal damage. A lawful excuse can either be belief in consent or that there was a belief that property was in immediate need of protection. Both are entirely premised on the defendant’s belief and are entirely subjective. There is no requirement that a defendant’s justifiable belief is an honest belief. (Jaggard v Dickinson, R v Denton)