Causing damage to another person’s property is a criminal offence in New South Wales. Offences relating to property damage are outlined in the New South Wales Crimes Act NSW 1900, the most common property offences are:
Threatening To Destroy Or Damage Property
In New South Wales, if a person threatens to destroy or damage property they can be found guilty of an offence even if the threat is not carried out. Under the law, if the threat was made with the intention of causing the victim fear, then the offence can be established.
Malicious Damage Of Property
The offence of malicious damage of property is defined as occurring when a person intentionally or recklessly destroys property — it can include things like punching a hole in a wall, breaking a window, or damaging someone else’s car.
Intention means that the person who caused the damage knew what their actions would do. Recklessness relates to having regard for the potential damage likely to be caused and continuing with your actions.
Under the law, the definition of property is exhaustive and complex but essentially property means something that belongs to another person, and is not the rightful property of the person accused. For example, it includes: money, valuables, securities, debts, and legacies as well as all deeds and documents that would provide evidence of the right to any property, as well as the right to recover or receive any money or goods.
Damaging Protected or Public Places
This offence relates to vandalism, or when damage is inflicted upon a protected place, such as a monument in a public place or public property such as buildings, parks and benches or toilets and street signs. It can also be applied to trees and plants if they are protected or in a protected area such as a national park.
(1) A person who intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another or to that person and another is liable–
(a) to imprisonment for 5 years, or
(b) if the destruction or damage is caused by means of fire or explosives, to imprisonment for 10 years.
(1A) A person who, in the company of another person or persons, intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another or to that person and another is liable–
(a) to imprisonment for 6 years, or
(b) if the destruction or damage is caused by means of fire or explosives, to imprisonment for 11 years.
(2) A person who, during a public disorder, intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another or to that person and another is liable–
(a) to imprisonment for 7 years, or
(b) if the destruction or damage is caused by means of fire or explosives, to imprisonment for 12 years.
How the court deals with property offences
Most minor property offences are summary offences, which are heard in the Local Court.
More serious offences are heard in the District Court which can impose higher penalties. The ‘seriousness’ of the offence is determined by circumstances in which the property was damaged, how it was damaged and the amount of damage caused (the financial cost of the damage).
If you have been charged with a property offence it is important to get the right advice from an experienced criminal lawyer who can help you to understand what charges you face and penalties available to the court. The potential defences to property charges include duress or self defence.
This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.