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Destroying Or Damaging Property

In Victoria, it is an offence to destroy or damage any property belonging to another person. This offence is punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. This article outlines what is involved in this offence and the defences that can be relied on.

The Offence of Destroying or Damaging Property

The offence of destroying or damaging property is contained in s 197 (1) of the Crimes Act 1958, which states: “a person who intentionally and without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another or to himself and another shall be guilty of an indictable offence”.

What Actions Might Constitute Destroying or Damaging Property

The following actions can form the basis of a property damage charge.

  • Breaking a neighbour’s letterbox;
  • Destroying a glass window of a shopping centre; or,
  • Throwing another person’s mobile phone so that it smashes on the ground.

What the Police Must Prove

To convict a person of destroying or damaging property, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • They destroyed or damaged property;
  • They did so intentionally;
  • They did so without lawful excuse;
  • That the property belonged to another person or the accused person and another person.

What is Property?

Property is defined at section 196 of the Crimes Act 1958 as, “property of a tangible nature, whether real or personal, including money and including wild creatures which have been tamed or are ordinarily kept in captivity and any other wild creatures or their carcasses, but only if, they have been reduced into possession which has not been lost or abandoned or are in the course of being reduced into possession”.

Possible Defences

There are various defences that can be advanced to a charge of property damage. These include the following.

Lawful excuse

It is not an offence to damage property with a lawful excuse (for example, because you have the permission of the owner.)

Lack of intent

It is not an offence to damage property by accident. The offence is made out only where the property is damaged intentionally or recklessly.


It is not an offence to destroy property in the context of a sudden and extraordinary emergency.  An example of this is where a person rips up another person’s clothing to bandage the wound of a seriously injured person.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Destroying or damaging property is an indictable offence that can be heard in the Magistrates Court if the destruction or damage to the property is not significant. If the destruction or damage is significant or there are other more serious charges, the matter will be heard in the County Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal. 

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