Criminal Damage Act 1971
We’ve included a section about the Criminal Damage Act as it’s a piece of legislation sometimes used against activists who are involved in (or are accused of being involved in) direct action. We believe that it is important to make sure that information about laws like these is easily accessible even if they’re not commonly used against us. Additionally, we’ve included section 3 which covers possession of an article that could be used to cause damage to property which could affect what you choose to carry with you on the street if you are a known activist / are going to a demo.
See articles about police “stop & search” powers for information regarding being searched personally by the police for items that could be used in an offence.
Section 1 – Destroying or Damaging Property
(1)A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence.
(2)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.
(3)An offence committed under this section by destroying or damaging property by fire shall be charged as arson.
Section 2 – Threats to destroy or damage property
A person who, without lawful excuse, makes to another a threat, intending that that other would fear it would be carried out,—
(a)to destroy or damage any property belonging to that other or a third person; or
(b)to destroy or damage his own property in a way which he knows is likely to endanger the life of that other or third person;
shall be guilty of an offence.
Section 3 – Possessing anything with intent to destroy or damage property
A person who has anything in his custody or under his control intending without lawful excuse to use it or cause or permit another to use it—
(a)to destroy or damage any property belonging to some other person; or
(b)to destroy or damage his own or the user’s property in a way which he knows is likely to endanger the life of some other person;
shall be guilty of an offence.
Section 4 – Punishment of offences
(1)A person guilty of arson under section 1 above or of an offence under section 1(2) above (whether arson or not) shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for life.
(2)A person guilty of any other offence under this Act shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
Section 5 – “Without Lawful Excuse”
(1)This section applies to any offence under section 1(1) above and any offence under section 2 or 3 above other than one involving a threat by the person charged to destroy or damage property in a way which he knows is likely to endanger the life of another or involving an intent by the person charged to use or cause or permit the use of something in his custody or under his control so to destroy or damage property.
(2)A person charged with an offence to which this section applies, shall, whether or not he would be treated for the purposes of this Act as having a lawful excuse apart from this subsection, be treated for those purposes as having a lawful excuse—
(a)if at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence he believed that the person or persons whom he believed to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question had so consented, or would have so consented to it if he or they had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances; or
(b)if he destroyed or damaged or threatened to destroy or damage the property in question or, in the case of a charge of an offence under section 3 above, intended to use or cause or permit the use of something to destroy or damage it, in order to protect property belonging to himself or another or a right or interest in property which was or which he believed to be vested in himself or another, and at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence he believed—
(i)that the property, right or interest was in immediate need of protection; and
(ii)that the means of protection adopted or proposed to be adopted were or would be reasonable having regard to all the circumstances.
(3)For the purposes of this section it is immaterial whether a belief is justified or not if it is honestly held.
(4)For the purposes of subsection (2) above a right or interest in property includes any right or privilege in or over land, whether created by grant, licence or otherwise.
(5)This section shall not be construed as casting doubt on any defence recognised by law as a defence to criminal charges.
Section 6 – Search for things intended for use in committing offences of criminal damage
(1)If it is made to appear by information on oath before a justice of the peace that there is reasonable cause to believe that any person has in his custody or under his control or on his premises anything which there is reasonable cause to believe has been used or is intended for use without lawful excuse—
(a)to destroy or damage property belonging to another; or
(b)to destroy or damage any property in a way likely to endanger the life of another,
the justice may grant a warrant authorising any constable to search for and seize that thing.
(2)A constable who is authorised under this section to search premises for anything, may enter (if need be by force) and search the premises accordingly and may seize anything which he believes to have been used or to be intended to be used as aforesaid.
(3)The Police (Property) Act 1897 (disposal of property in the possession of the police) shall apply to property which has come into the possession of the police under this section as it applies to property which has come into the possession of the police in the circumstances mentioned in that Act.