It's Mine, and I Will Damage It If I Want To!

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02 October, 2023

Craig MacKenzie

Police are currently investigating the causes of a fire that destroyed the Crooked House Pub near Dudley, causing a lot of people to wonder about the laws of criminal damage.

Generally speaking, a person can damage, which includes setting fire to, their property. So, if you no longer want an item, you can, in most cases, chuck it in the bin, destroy it with a hammer or set a match to it if it takes your fancy.

Section 1(1) Criminal Damage Act 1971 reads:

'A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another...' [shall be guilty of an offence]

The crucial words in that section are 'belonging to another', i.e. property that is not yours.

So, this appears to confirm that you can damage your property without committing any criminal offence.

However, there are other offences to consider; for example, demolishing a building requires planning permission, so there could be offences if those permissions are not obtained.

It is a matter of common sense, though, that the demolition of a building, whether in a traditional sense or by setting fire to it, carries some risks, and it is because of this the law adds an extra dimension to the offences of criminal damage.

Section 1(2) states:

A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property, whether belonging to himself or another -

(a) intending to destroy or damage any property or being reckless as to whether any property would be destroyed or damaged; and

(b) intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another or being reckless as to whether the life of another would be thereby endangered;

shall be guilty of an offence.

This means that if the destruction of the property carries a risk of danger to life, it is an offence to proceed, regardless of whether the property belongs to you or anyone else.

The law is more complex than people might want or believe it to be. We can offer tailored advice on all aspects of criminal and regulatory law and ensure that any actions you propose are lawful.

How can Forbes Solicitors help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you want to discuss any aspect of your case, don't hesitate to get in touch with Craig Mackenzie, Partner & Head of the High-Profile & Private Crime Division.

Our private criminal defence solicitors are industry-leading and committed to delivering excellence. We offer a 'cutting edge, best in class service' and excel in representing professionals and prominent individuals.

Why choose Forbes Solicitors private criminal defence team?

We are a large, national, multi-disciplinary firm representing clients for over 200 years in one form or another. We are ranked in the Top Tier of firms in the United Kingdom by the Legal 500 and Band 1 (highest) by Chambers and Partners.

Our private criminal defence solicitors act in thousands of cases yearly, often in the most serious and most high-profile cases before the Courts. The firm has significant resources and uses the latest technology to prepare cases. Our private criminal defence team will treat you and your case with integrity, sensitivity, and a 'laser focus' towards obtaining a successful outcome for you from the moment of instruction.

For more information contact Craig MacKenzie in our Crime department via email or phone on 01772 220 022. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Crime department here

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