Any person who intentionally damages property without lawful excuse, whether it is public, private or commercial property, may be charged with the offence of wilful damage in Qld. Governed by section 469 of the Criminal Code 1899, many actions constitute wilful damage, and with this comes varying penalties.
What Actions Constitute Wilful Damage?
Wilful damage in Qld incorporates a wide range of actions including graffiti, destruction of property and vandalism. In order to be charged with this crime, the accused must have destroyed or damaged property wilfully, unlawfully and without the owner’s consent. There are some instances where a person may be found guilty of damaging their own property in order to make an insurance claim.
For a simple wilful damage offence in Qld, the offender is liable to a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. The offender may also be subject to other penalties, including fines or community service. There are special cases of wilful damage that may result in life imprisonment.
Special Cases of Wilful Damage
Section 469 of the Criminal Code 1899 also outlines several special cases of this crime that may attract higher penalties.
- Destroying or damaging premises by explosion (maximum penalty life imprisonment);
- Destroying or damaging sea walls or inland water (maximum penalty life imprisonment);
- Damage a to will or other testamentary instrument (maximum penalty 14 years imprisonment)
- Damage to a vessel in distress, wreck or stranded (maximum penalty 7 years imprisonment)
- Damage to an aircraft or any part of a railway (maximum penalty 14 years imprisonment in either case)
- Damage to deeds or records kept in a public office (maximum penalty 7 years imprisonment)
- Damage by graffiti to a public place, including spraying, writing, scratching or etching (maximum 7 years imprisonment)
- Damage to property in a cemetery or crematorium (maximum penalty 7 years imprisonment)
- Damage to an educational institution (maximum penalty 7 years imprisonment)
- Damage to ‘other things of special value’, including a vessel, beacon or buoy used for nautical navigation, agricultural machinery (maximum penalty 7 years imprisonment)
The offence of wilful damage may be defendable in these instances in Qld:
- No intent – If the damage is not done intentionally, rather by accident, the offence did not occur.
- Consent was given – If the owner of the property consented the damage or destruction, then it is not considered malicious or wilful damage.
- Emergency – It is not an offence to damage property if someone is in danger of either death or serious injury.
- Duress – If a person is acting under duress or compulsion, for example, they were threatened with violence if they did not damage the property, they might not be found guilty.
Charged With Wilful Damage to Property in Qld?
If you have been charged with wilful damage to Qld property, please seek legal advice from a criminal lawyer. Doing so may help improve your chances of lessening the severity of your penalty, especially if it is a special case of wilful damage.
We offer free initial consultations (including in prisons) to assist with a number of criminal offences. Please get in touch with our lawyers either via Guest Lawyers’ email or by calling (07) 3236 0266.