"A" (A Juvenile) v The Queen
 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
Held: insufficient to cause damage to
this type of garment.
Caldwell, R v (1982) HL
R v G and another (2003) HL
[Criminal damage - recklessness - the
test for Criminal Damage is always objective recklessness - intoxication
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
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  nor to a person of the age of the accused or
sharing the accused’s characteristics R (Stephen Malcolm) (1984);
R v Miller . These cases were confirmed and followed in R v
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.
Riley (1986) QBD
[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.
v (1982) CA
[Criminal damage - without lawful
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
'…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.'
v (1989) CA
[Criminal damage - intent to endanger
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
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.
Fancy, R v
 McNair J
[Criminal Damage – what damage means
D had paint to remove slogans painted by National Front.
Held: depends on how over painting
achieved will decide on whether there is damage.
Fiak, R v  CA
[Criminal Damage - what damage means]
D while in
police custody for alleged drinking and driving placed a blanket down the
toilet causing flooding.
Both blanket and cell were rendered out of use until dried out.
Gayford and Chouler, R v (1898)
[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
Held: The damage to the grass
incurred expense of 6d (2 1/2p). Trampling grass, or any other
vegetation, constituted damage.
another, R v (2003) HL
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
(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
(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
[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
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.
Henderson and Battley, R v
referred to in the judgment of Stephen Brown LJ in Cox v Riley (1986)
^[Criminal damage - damage includes impairing value of usefulness]
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
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.
Jaggard v Dickinson (1980) QBD
[Criminal damage - mistake - lawful
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
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.
Kelleher, R v
[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
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
Lloyd, R v
[Criminal damage - without consent or
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Smith, R v
[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.
Steer, R v
[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.
Tacey, R v1821
^[Criminal Damage - damage includes making a machine inoperable]
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
half-jack is a piece of iron it is an essential part of the frame, and
when taken out, the frame is rendered useless.
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.