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Cases - criminal damage

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Lecture notes here 

"A" (A Juvenile) v The Queen [1978]
Caldwell, R v (1982) HL
Cox v Riley (1986) QBD
Denton, R v (1982) CA 
Dudley, R v (1989) CA 
Elliott v C [1983] QBD
Fancy, R v [1980]

Fiak, R v [2005] CA
Gayford and Chouler, R v (1898) QBD

G and another, R v [2003] HL
Hardman v Chief Constable for Avon and Somerset (1986)

Henderson and Battley, R v (1984) CA
Hill and Hall, R v (1989)
Jaggard v Dickinson (1980) QBD

Kelleher, R v [2003] CA
Lloyd, R v (1992) QBD
Melchett, R v (2000)
Morphitis v Salmon (1990) QBD
R (on the application of Abbott) v Colchester Magistrates Court (2001) QBD
Roe v Kingerlee (1986) QBD
Roper v Knott (1898) QBD
Smith, R v [1974] CA
Steer, R v [1987 HL

Tacey, R v1821

 

"A" (A Juvenile) v The Queen [1978] Kent Crown Court Streeter J (and justices)

[Criminal damage – spitting on Sgt’s raincoat does not damage it]
D being escorted with group spat on police Sgt’s raincoat, he did not know.

 

Held: insufficient to cause damage to this type of garment.

Not guilty

Caldwell, R v (1982) HL

 

Red Triangle - important information

Overruled by R v G and another (2003) HL

[Criminal damage - recklessness - the test for Criminal Damage is always objective recklessness - intoxication no defence]
D set fire by night to a residential hotel where he had been employed. He bore a grudge against the proprietor.
According to his evidence he was so drunk at the time that it did not occur to him that there might be people there whose lives might be endangered.

Held: Recklessness in the context of Criminal Damage does not require subjective appreciation of the risk of causing damage, but is also satisfied by a failure to consider an obvious risk.

 

The risk need only be obvious in the sense that it would have been obvious to the reasonable man, not to the accused if he or she had stopped to think Elliott v C [1983] nor to a person of the age of the accused or sharing the accused’s characteristics R (Stephen Malcolm) (1984); R v Miller [1983]. These cases were confirmed and followed in R v Coles [1995].

 

Lord Diplock:
It is unnecessary to classify the offence as one of specific or basic intent, since, as far as recklessness is concerned, evidence of intoxication is logically irrelevant and therefore no defence anyway.

Cox v Riley (1986) QBD

 

Red Triangle - important information

[Criminal damage - impairing usefulness]
D deliberately erased a computer programme from a plastic circuit card that operated a computerised saw. The saw made window frame profiles. The damage made the saw inoperable. D argued that the property in question was not tangible and therefore could not be 'damaged.' 

Held
: Erasing the computer programme constituted damage. The word 'damage' should be given its ordinary dictionary meaning. It took time; labour and expense to put right the damage. The court defined 'damage' as 'injury impairing value or usefulness' and is a question of fact and degree in each case.

 

Guilty

Denton, R v (1982) CA

[Criminal damage - without lawful authority]
D set fire to machinery at the cotton mill where he worked. The fire also damaged the mill. He claimed that the owner had consented because the owner had asked him to set fire to the machinery in order to make an insurance claim.

 

Held:

'…The fact that somebody may have had a dishonest intent … cannot turn what was not originally a crime into a crime. There is not unlawfulness under the … Criminal Damage Act 1971 … in burning a house. It does not become unlawful because there may be an inchoate attempt to commit fraud contained in it; that is to say it does not become a crime under the Act.'

Not guilty

Dudley, R v (1989) CA 

[Criminal damage - intent to endanger life]
D damaged by fire (arson) an occupied house. He threw a firebomb at it. The occupants of the house quickly put out the fire, which caused little damage.

 

Held: Lives were not actually endangered but this is irrelevant. It was D's intention to endanger lives or D was reckless as to whether life was endangered. If at the time that D committed the act in question there was an obvious risk that lives would be endangered, the necessary mens rea existed.

 

Guilty

Fancy, R v [1980] McNair J

[Criminal Damage – what damage means variable concept]
D had paint to remove slogans painted by National Front.

 

Held: depends on how over painting achieved will decide on whether there is damage.

 

Not Guilty

Fiak, R v [2005] CA

[Criminal Damage - what damage means]

D while in police custody for alleged drinking and driving placed a blanket down the toilet causing flooding.

 

Held: Both blanket and cell were rendered out of use until dried out.

 

Guilty

Gayford and Chouler, R v (1898) 
QBD

 

Red Triangle - important information

[Criminal damage - destroy or damage]
D walked across a grass field belonging to V. The grass was knee high; D trampled it and damaged it.  D and another were crossing V's field from one footpath to another, despite being told by the owner not to do so. 

 

Held: The damage to the grass incurred expense of 6d (2 1/2p).  Trampling grass, or any other vegetation, constituted damage. 

 

Guilty 

G and another, R v  (2003) HL

 

Red Triangle - important information

 

Whole case, here

[Criminal damage - recklessness is objective]

DD aged 11 and 12 went camping without their parents approval. They went to the back of the Co-op in Newport Pagnell, lit some newspapers which set fire to a wheelie-bin which set fire to the shop, cause £1m of damage. They were convicted of arson by a jury. Both the judge and jury appear to have been not content with applying the objective approach that the law required in R v Caldwell (1982) HL.

Held: Unanimously, Caldwell was wrongly decided, the test of recklessness was found in the preparatory work of the Law Commission prior to the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
The test now is:

"A person acts recklessly within the meaning of section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 with respect to -
(i) a circumstance when he is aware of a risk that it exists or will exist;
(ii) a result when he is aware of a risk that it will occur;
and it is, in the circumstances known to him, unreasonable to take the risk."
(Based on clause 18(c) of the Criminal Code Bill annexed by the Law Commission to its Report “A Criminal Code for England and Wales Volume 1: Report and Draft Criminal Code Bill” (Law Com No 177, April 1989))

Not guilty of arson (criminal damage by fire)

Hardman v Chief Constable for Avon and Somerset (1986) Bristol Crown Ct Llewellyn-Jones J and Justices

 

Red Triangle - important information

[Criminal damage - destroy or damage]
D's were CND members. They painted human silhouettes on a pavement on the anniversary of Hiroshima. The paint was water-soluble paint specially mixed so that rainwater and pedestrian traffic would remove it. Before this could happen the local authority employed a 'graffiti squad' to remove the paint. 

 

Held: The local authority incurred expense and inconvenience put matters right.

Therefore, the defendants had caused criminal damage.

 

Guilty

Hill and Hall, R v (1989)

[Criminal damage - defence of property]
D's were in possession of a hacksaw blade with intent to damage property. Their intention was to cut the fence of a US naval base in England. They were part of a CND campaign. They had an honest belief that the damage was justified to protect other property.

In the event of war, the base would be the subject of nuclear attack damage would occur to the surrounding area, including their own property. 

Held
: D's acts would be too remote from the eventual harm they were protecting the property from.

 

Guilty 

Doubted in Kelleher [2003]

Henderson and Battley, R v (1984) CA

 

 

Unreported referred to in the judgment of Stephen Brown LJ in Cox v Riley (1986)
 

^[Criminal damage - damage includes impairing value of usefulness]

D damaged land by allowing 30 lorry loads of soil and rubble and mud to be tipped on to the site. D, pretending to act with authority, had been operating the site as a public tip and charging their customers for the rubbish which was tipped.

Held: What DD had done could be said to have damaged the land even though the land beneath the piles of rubbish was in the same condition as it was before the rubbish was tipped.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines 'damage' as 'injury impairing value or usefulness'. Which fits well with doing something to a cleared building site which impairs its usefulness as such.

In addition, as it necessitates work and the expenditure to restore it to its former state, it reduces its present value as a building site.

This land was a perfectly good building site which did not need £2,000 spending on it in order to sell or use it as such until the appellants began their operations.

 

Guilty

Jaggard v Dickinson (1980) QBD

 

Red Triangle - important information

[Criminal damage - mistake - lawful authority]
D broke into a house when she was drunk. She thought the house belonged to her friend. If the house had belonged to her friend, the friend would have consented to her entering in this way. D argued that she had a defence under the Act.

("having a lawful excuse " if "he believed that the person . . . whom he believed to be entitled to consent to the destruction of . . . the property . . . would have so consented."). 

Held
: Her intoxication negated her mens rea. The offence was one of basic intent, but Parliament specifically intended the defence to be subjective.

Therefore, the correct test is what the defendant's actual state of belief was, not the state of belief that ought to have existed.

The defendant has an honest belief if is honestly held even if it is a drunken belief.

 

Not guilty

Kelleher, R v [2003] CA

[Criminal damage - lawful excuse - judge must not direct a jury to convict]
D entered an art gallery and decapitated a statue of Baroness Thatcher in protest at her policies which he foresaw were leading the world towards its eventual destruction. The judge directed the jury to convict because of none of the evidence was disputed and the statutory defence did not engage with D.

Held: A judge is never entitled to direct a jury to return a verdict of guilty. A defence of lawful excuse was only available where, whatever the defendant’s state of mind, the defendant’s act had been in order to protect his own property or right or interest, or that of anyone else.

The Court examined, once again, the breadth of the defence of “lawful excuse” to a charge of criminal damage. They doubted R v Hill (1989).

The evidence was overwhelming in any event, so the the conviction was safe.

Lloyd, R v (1992) 
QBD

[Criminal damage - without consent or lawful authority]
D parked his car in a private car park. He did not have permission. The car was clamped. D removed the clamp by damaging the padlocks. He did not pay the levy, D claimed there was a trespass to his property and so he had lawful authority to cut the padlocks off.

 

Held: D consented to the risk of his car being clamped. He had no complaint when it occurred. At worst, he had suffered a civil wrong, the remedy for which was through the civil courts. The defendant should only contemplate self-help when there was no other reasonable alternative. D had no lawful excuse for causing criminal damage.

 

Guilty

Melchett, R v (2000) Norwich Crown Court

[Criminal Damage - pressure groups destroy or damage]
Lord Melchett and 27 Greenpeace members destroyed GM crops cleared at trail by a jury.  They argued they had acted to protect the environment

Morphitis v Salmon (1990) QBD

[Criminal damage - destroy or damage]
D put a scaffold bar across an access road. The road led to premises used by himself and M. When M dismantled the barrier to gain access, he scratched the scaffold bar. 

Held
: A scratch on a metal scaffolding bar could not amount to criminal damage because it did not impair its usefulness or value. The removal of the scaffold bar impaired the usefulness of the roadblock, and that would amount to criminal damage.

 

Not guilty - but would have been if correct charge had been put.

R (on the application of Abbott) v Colchester Magistrates Court (2001) QBD

[Criminal damage - Jury trial]
 

Held: For the purpose of deciding whether a defendant was entitled to seek trial by jury, the value of property which he was alleged to have damaged was to be assessed, if beyond repair, by reference to its replacement market value, and no account would be taken of consequential loss.

Roe v Kingerlee (1986) QBD

[Criminal damage - what is damage?]
D smeared mud (from his Wellington boots) on the wall of a police station cell; it cost £7 to clean. 

Held
: Whether D's actions amount to criminal damage is a question of fact and degree for the magistrates, applying their common sense, to decide. It is not necessary for damage to be permanent.

 

Not guilty - but in future could be.

Roper v Knott (1898) QBD

[Criminal damage - destroy or damage]
D added three pints of water to four gallons of milk. The milk was thrown away value 10s 8d.  He was detected by a policeman on observation.

Held
: damage does not have to render the property totally useless. If the value of the property has been impaired, the defendant has caused damage. D’s actions were deliberate and intended to cause the damage.

 

Guilty

Smith, R v [1974] CA

[Criminal Damage – mistake – if honestly held – not guilty]
D a tenant built panelling (floorboards) to conceal some wires. He damaged the floorboards to remove stereo wires, when his tenancy ended.

 

Held: Although the property was the landlord’s, D honestly but mistakenly believed the property was his own. Provided that the belief is honestly held, it is irrelevant whether or not it is a justifiable belief.

 

Not guilty

Steer, R v [1987 HL

 

Red Triangle - important information

[Criminal Damage with intent to endanger life must result from the damage]
D fired at V, who life was endangered by the shooting not from the window that was broken

 

Held: for this offence life must be endangered by damage.

 

Not guilty

Tacey, R v1821

^[Criminal Damage - damage includes making a machine inoperable]

D entered by force a shop belonging to Thomas Pym where they removed the half-jack from a frame used for the making of frame-work knitted stockings

The half-jack is a piece of iron it is an essential part of the frame, and when taken out, the frame is rendered useless.

 

It may however be taken out, and again replaced, without injury to the frame, and is sometimes so treated, when the frame is taken to pieces to be cleaned. The half-jack had not been returned.

Balguy, for the defendant objected, that this removal of the half-jack was not a damaging of the frame within the meaning of the Act, which, as he contended, applied only to cases of breaking, bending, or straining, some part of the frame, and not to the removal of a part, though that part might be an essential part.

The learned judge overruled the objection, and passed the sentence of seven years' transportation which the Act requires; but reserved the point for the opinion of the judges.
 


Held: The taking out and carrying away the piece of iron called the half-jack, was a damaging the frame within the meaning of the Act, as it made the frame imperfect and inoperative. They held the conviction right.

 

Guilty

 

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