What does the term malicious damage mean, and how do the rules around malicious damage to property apply in New South Wales? If you meant to cause harm, you are said to have acted maliciously thus it was an intentional act. This form of destruction refers to damage that was motivated by spite or vindictiveness where the person intended to cause harm. Malicious damage can also be referred to as a property damage offence as it involves destroying or damaging property belonging to another person. The Australian Institute of Criminology reports that in NSW, the most widely reported criminal offence is malicious damage. This form of damage includes the destruction of property, vandalism, damage through fire or explosives and graffiti.
State LegislationThere are specific differences in legislation from state to state in Australia. The root of the offence remains the same, but there are variations concerning outcomes. For example, in the 1900 Crimes Act under Section 195, the damage to another person’s property must be judged to have been done recklessly and deliberately in New South Wales. Interestingly, if the crime is perpetrated in the company of other people, then the period of imprisonment is likely to be longer. If explosives or fire are used to destroy or damage property, the penalties will be more significant. In New South Wales, malicious damage is no longer an explicit offence. It has been changed and is now referred to as intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging property belonging to someone else. If you want more information to refer to, go to the Crimes Act 1900, section 195. Graffiti and vandalism cases come under a 2008 Act called the Graffiti Control Act.
What Is Property?Property is a thing or several things that belong to someone – something they possess. It includes personal property like money, instruments, tools, etc., as well as homes, sheds, windows, and items related to the title of a property.
What Is Considered Damage?Reckless destruction or Drunk driving can include punching or kicking a hole in a door or wall, scratching someone’s car, slashing tyres, breaking off a windscreen wiper or painting graffiti on walls. It can also include cutting up someone’s clothing, causing damage during a break-in, like breaking vases or glassware, flooding, erasing important information on a personal computer. Destroying something can be pretty difficult to prove. It means that the item is not entirely useless. It can be harder to show an item has been destroyed rather than damaged. Malicious damage implies that the person intended to cause damage. If the property damage prevents a person from using the property for some time, it fits under this heading. Damage does not have to be permanent to be considered malicious damage. If the case is to be prosecuted, it has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the perpetrator did destroy or damage the property maliciously.
What Should You Do?If you discover that some of your property has been maliciously destroyed, what should you do? Your first call of action is to contact the police as a report is required for a malicious damage claim.
The ProsecutorThe prosecutor can decide to take the case to a local court or to a higher court where there is a trial, and the jury decides. There are three things the police have to prove in these cases to determine whether a person is guilty of this offence.
- Property must have been destroyed or damaged.
- The property damaged must belong to someone else.
- The court must believe the action has been done recklessly and intentionally.