It is a criminal offence to damage or destroy property that does not belong to you. Under Section 195 (1) of the Crimes Act 1900 in NSW a person who intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property that is jointly owned by the person with someone else or owned by someone else faces up to 5 years imprisonment. If the damage to the property is caused by the use of fire or explosives then the person faces up to 10 years imprisonment.
The penalty increases by a year if the damage to property is done in the company of others. If the damage is done in the company of others during a public disorder the penalty increases by a further two years.
In cases of damage to property the police must prove that:
it was you who destroyed or damaged the property
the property in question was owned by someone else or by you and someone else
the destruction or damage of the property was done maliciously with intent, or recklessly
Damage to property can include an act which prevents the property being used by someone else (for example deleting files from a computer). It can also include a temporary defacing, marking or altering of the property. The property does not have to be be completely destroyed for this offence to apply.
A person can also be charged with this offence for damaging their own property. For example, if a person deliberately destroys their own car or sets fire to their own house in order to make an claim on an insurance policy.
The offence of damage to property is a serious one. If you have been charged with this offence you need expert legal advice early on to look closely at your case to see if there are any defences available. If convicted you will have a criminal record which could affect your employment or future employment and travel to other countries. For advice call William Vahl on 0400446424. William is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 20 years experience practising criminal law.