Criminal Damage Charges

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If you have been accused of, arrested for or charged with criminal damage, it means that you are suspected of intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging property belonging to another person – and you should contact DPP Law as a matter of urgency.

Our specialist lawyers have over 35 years’ worth of experience in defending individuals who have been accused of acts of criminal damage — including when dealing with graffiti and arson.

If the damage was caused while entering a property without consent or during an assault, the potential charge of criminal damage may be replaced by another charge, such as burglary. However, an individual may still be charged with criminal damage if the destruction caused is considered gratuitous by the court. Alternatively, if there is not enough evidence to prove any other offence, the defendant may face charges of criminal damage alone.

A person can even be charged for “preparing to commit criminal damage”, even if the act of damage was not committed. Here, we explain a little more about charges of criminal damage and their associated sentencing guidelines.

It’s complicated variables such as the ones outlined above why you should contact DPP Law if you have been accused of Criminal Damage.

What is the Criminal Damage Act of 1971?

The Criminal Damage Act of 1971 is an Act of Parliament that defines the offence of criminal damage and its sentencing guidelines.

What Offences Constitute Criminal Damage?

The Criminal Damage Act (CDA) covers a range of offences that all fall under the umbrella of Criminal Damage, including:

  • Arson
  • Aggravated Criminal Damage and Aggravated Arson
  • Racially and Religiously Aggravated Criminal Damage
  • Destroying or Damaging Property
  • Threat to Destroy or Damage Property
  • Possessing Anything with Intent to Destroy or Damage Property


Arson refers to the damage or destruction of any property by fire, the intention to damage or destroy property using fire, or behaviour that is “reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged”.

Cases of “simple arson” require the property to be damaged before charges can be brought.

Aggravated Criminal Damage and Aggravated Arson

There is also “aggravated criminal damage” and “aggravated arson”, where it must be proven that the perpetrator intended, through their actions, to endanger the life of another individual – or that they were reckless as to whether another person’s life would be endangered.

Racially and Religiously Aggravated Criminal Damage/Arson

This is a particular form of aggravated arson or criminal damage of which a person may be accused if the offence they have committed is thought to be even partly motivated by hatred towards a particular religious or racial group.

Destroying or Damaging Property

This offence applies whether the alleged perpetrator, “without lawful excuse” actually destroys or damages property, takes action with the intention of doing so, or acts in a manner that is “reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged”.

An aggravated charge may also be brought if the individual damaged property with the intention “to endanger the life of another, or being reckless as to whether the life of another would be thereby endangered”.

Threat to Destroy or Damage Property

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, a threat to destroy or damage the property may apply to:

“property belonging to the person threatened [or] a third person; or the defendant’s own property, in a way which is likely to endanger the life of the person threatened or a third person”.

In order for an individual to be found guilty of this offence, it must be clear that they intended the alleged victim to genuinely fear that the threat would be carried out.

Possessing Anything with Intent to Destroy or Damage Property

If a person uses or permits the use of “anything in [their] custody or under [their] control” for the purpose of – or with the intention of – destroying or damaging someone else’s property, this constitutes an offence.

What’s more, if an article is used to destroy any property “in a way which [the person] knows is likely to endanger the life of some other person”, the perpetrator may face an aggravated charge.

What are the Sentencing Guidelines for Criminal Damage?

On 1st October 2019, the sentencing council reported that new guidelines would be introduced, effective from that day, regarding sentencing within arson and criminal damage cases.

It was stated that these guidelines would “see the courts take full account of the harm caused by offences such as arson attacks on historic buildings or criminal damage leading to severe disruption of public services”.

Both criminal damage and arson are triable either way. This means that they may be brought to the Magistrate’s Court or the Crown Court – and this decision usually depends on the value of the damage caused and any aggravating factors.

If the case is tried summarily – which will be the case if the value of the damage caused does not exceed £5,000 – Criminal Damage sentencing guidelines state that the maximum penalty will either be a fine of up to £2,500, 3 months imprisonment, or both.

Defendants in cases of arson face a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to £5,000 or both – as long as the case is tried summarily.

However, aggravated criminal damage or aggravated arson are only triable on indictment, and those found guilty face up to life in prison.

What To Do If You’ve Been Accused of a Criminal Damage Charge

Accusations of criminal damage should be taken seriously – so, if you have been arrested on a charge of this kind – or feel you are likely to be – it is vital that you reach out to legal experts right away.

The specialists at DPP Law have decades’ worth of experience defending and assisting clients accused of criminal damage. We will help you to collect evidence and put together a strong case that will ensure the best possible outcome.

As the charges above come with the possibility of many years imprisonment, it is vital that the courts take great care when deciding who to convict of criminal damage.

Assessing culpability for crimes of this kind is a vital step, so, if the alleged perpetrator is found to have been living with a mental disorder or learning disability when the offence took place, they may face a lesser charge, or indeed, the case may have a different outcome entirely.

If you are concerned that a mental condition is not being taken into account in a case of criminal damage in which you play a part, do not hesitate to contact us today. We will help you to achieve proper justice for the accused.

Alongside cases of arson and criminal damage, our solicitors advise individuals on:

Criminal Damage Charges: Frequently Asked Questions

What is aggravated criminal damage?

Aggravated criminal damage includes the same factors as the “simple” charge – however, there must also be intent to endanger life – or, at least, recklessness as to whether life is endangered.

Other aggravating factors may include the targeting of an individual or group, which includes targeting based on race or religion.

What is the penalty for criminal damage to a memorial?

In cases of criminal damage to a memorial, the monetary value of the damage is not considered. Instead, as a rule, the maximum penalty for this offence is set at 10 years’ imprisonment.

Is vandalism considered criminal damage?

The terms “criminal damage” and “vandalism” are usually considered to be interchangeable.

Can I go to jail for threats to cause criminal damage?

Yes. This offence is triable either way, so, if tried summarily, you may simply face a fine – but, if tried on indictment, there is the possibility of up to 10 years’ custody depending on aggravating factors.

Who pays for criminal damage?

Victims of criminal damage can apply for court-awarded compensation to be paid to them by the offender.

If the offender is ordered to pay, it will be in instalments. However, if they are being sent to prison, they usually will not be asked to pay compensation. There are hardship funds available to support victims of crime in this way.

Is It Automatically Criminal Damage If Someone Damages Your Property?

In order to satisfy the terms of a criminal damage charge, the court must be able to show that the defendant damaged another person’s property with intent and without lawful excuse. If the crown is unable to demonstrate your intent or if you can demonstrate a lawful excuse, it’s highly unlikely that the defendant will be sentenced as guilty.

Contact DPP Law For Legal Help

For further information about the services we offer to those accused of criminal damage and related offences, simply contact DPP Law today. We will be happy to assist you.

As well as Criminal Damage Charges, DPP can help you with the following:

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