Criminal Damage and Theft

Criminal Damage

Criminal Damage is the “deliberate or reckless damage” of property without lawful excuse.  The damage does not have to be permanent – people have been accused of this offense after using chalk on paving stones. It includes interfering with property in a manner that causes loss, which could include loss of profit (e.g. by setting off a fire alarm). Defence can often hinge on the ‘lawful excuse’ aspect of this offence. This offence is divided into two: Damage below or above £5,000.

If value of damage is under £5,000 Sentencing starting point: conditional discharge and compensation order (i.e. you may be asked to pay back the costs of cleaning and repair), tried in a Magistrates Court. Maximum sentence: custodial sentence of up to 3 months, £2,500 fine
If value of damage is over £5,000 Sentencing starting point: a suspended sentence* and compensation order, tried in either a Magistrates Court or Crown Court. Maximum sentence when tried in Magistrates Court: £5,000 fine and six month custodial sentence. Maximum sentence when tried in Crown Court: custodial sentence of up to 10 years.

*A suspended prison sentence is the term given to a prison sentence imposed by the court, and then suspended (i.e. ‘delayed’). The court may decide to delay the prison sentence to allow the defendant a period of probation, or to undertake treatment for an addiction, or to meets conditions in the community. If the defendant breaches the terms of the suspended sentence, or commits another offence, they are likely to be sent to prison to serve the original prison term imposed.

Having items with intent to cause Criminal Damage

Activists found on their way to an action with bolt-croppers have been charged with having items with intent to cause Criminal Damage. The most ridiculous arrests we’ve seen for this were for having permanent markers!


This is “dishonestly appropriating another’s property with intent to permanently deprive them of it”. Maximum penalty is 7 years prison but this would involve property worth millions of pounds. There is a separate offence of possessing items of police uniform s90 Police Act 1996 with a maximum penalty of a fine.

Sentencing starting point:conditional discharge, possibly a fine