This article was written by Andrew Fraser - Senior Associate - Canberra

Andrew works in the areas of criminal law and traffic law, providing practical advice in all of his clients’ matters. Andrew has, over many years, developed positive working relationships with prosecutors, magistrates and judges. His no-nonsense approach means he has a reputation for putting forward the best case possible for clients. Andrew has won many matters for his clients, including...

Possession of Thing with Intent to Damage Property


Possession of a thing with intent to damage property is a serious criminal offence and it carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment. You could also be fined up to a maximum of 300 penalty units.

As of May 2020, a penalty unit in the ACT is valued at $210.00.

What is possession of a thing with intent to damage property?

The Criminal Code Act 2002 states that it is an offence to possess a thing with the intention to use the thing to damage a person’s property. Possessing a thing means that having control of the thing or that you are a joint owner of the thing. “Thing” is not defined in the Criminal Code Act 2002.

Examples of possessing a thing with intent to damage property include:

  • Carrying spray paint to spray paint someone’s house without their consent or prior knowledge;
  • Carrying lighter fluid so you could set fire to someone else’s property;
  • Carrying a rock or brick to throw through someone’s window;
  • Possessing a knife so you can slash someone’s car tyres.

You can also be charged with possession of a thing with intent to damage property if you had possession of an item with the intention that someone else would use it to cause harm to another person’s property. The thing does not need to actually be used to damage property. It is enough if it was intended for that to happen.

What actions might constitute possessing a thing with intent to damage property?

You may be charged with a possession of thing with intent to damage property offence if you:

  • Are found with a crowbar outside a residential address;
  • Are carrying a brick near a warehouse with multiple glass windows;
  • Possess a cricket bat and are found close to a car or other vehicle.

What the police must prove

To be convicted of a possession of thing with intent to damage property offence the police need to prove that you possessed the thing and also had the intention to cause harm to someone else’s property.

Possible defences

  • The most commonly argued defence to this charge is that you were in possession of the item for a lawful purpose. For example, that you were carrying a cricket bat because you were on your way to or from a cricket match.
  • Factual defences are also common. For example that you are not the person who committed the offence,that you were not in possession of the thing alleged or that there was no intention to use it to damage property.
  • In some circumstances, the defence of necessity and duress may also be arguable.

Which court will hear your matter?

Possession of a thing with intent to damage property is a summary offence with a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment. If parties agree, this offence may be finalised in the ACT Magistrates Court where the maximum penalty that can be imposed is two years imprisonment.

Penalties

The maximum penalty for possession of a thing with intent to damage property is three years imprisonment. However courts can also order:

\While this offence usually results in a conviction, courts have the discretion to order a Section 17: Non-Conviction Order.

If you require legal advice about possession of a thing with intent to damage property or any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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