Destroying or Damaging Property

Destroying or Damaging Property

Section 195(1)(a) Crimes Act states that a person who intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another or to that person and another is liable to imprisonment for 5 years.

Section 4 of the Crimes Act defined property as real and personal property including money, valuables, securities, debt and legacies.

What are the Elements of the Crime?

Physical Element/Actus Reus: Conduct that “destroys or damages” some article of tangible property. A person does not damage a thing by conduct which does not bring about any alteration to the physical integrity of the thing. The alteration may be relatively minor and temporary.

Mental Element/Mens Rea: Intention to destroy or damage property belonging to another or being reckless about destroying or damaging the property.

What does Prosecution have to Prove?

To establish an offence under section 195 of the Act, the prosecution must find beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. The accused destroyed or damaged property, and
  2. The property belonged to another person, and
  3. The destruction of property was done intentionally or recklessly.

What is the Penalty for Destroying or Damaging Property?

The maximum penalty prescribed for this crime is imprisonment for 5 years. However, the maximum punishment is given only in extreme cases.

An offence under this section falls under Table 1 of Schedule 1 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 where the value of the property exceeds $5,000.00 and Table 2 of Schedule 1 of Criminal Procedure Act 1986 where the value of the property does not exceed $5000.00. This means that the crime is tried in the Local Court or the District Court depending on the value of the property destroyed and the election made by either the prosecution or the defendant in each case.

What are the Defences Available?

Self-Defence, Necessity and Duress are defences available to this crime. Also note, that one cannot be guilty of this offence if one destroys their own property. However, if there is joint ownership of  the property the offence can be made out.

Onus of Proof

If you have you have been charged with the criminal offence of damaging property of another, you are innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The jury will review all available evidence and circumstances of the case and make a determination that you have been guilty of an offence.
This concept was discussed by their Honour of Dixon CJ in Plomp v The Queen [1963] HCA 44; (1963) 110 CLR 234 at 242 where he said:

“All the circumstances of the case must be weighed in judging whether there is evidence upon which a jury may reasonably be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the commission of the crime

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