UNDERSTANDING THE QUEENSLAND CRIMINAL CODE: WHAT IS WILFUL DAMAGE?
What is Wilful Damage? Think: Graffitiing, destroying, defacing, marking or altering property.
Wilful Damage is defined as ‘the wilful and unlawful destruction or damage of property without consent of the owner’ under Section 469 of the Queensland Criminal Code.
The property in question can be of any kind, commonly noted is a car, a home or community item.
However, it’s not all black and white.
Sometimes, it’s seen that an individual may commit wilful damage against their own property. Why? Generally, for false insurance claims.
Whether it’s to your own property, or someone else’s – wilful damage is a common offence, and, if you commit Wilful Damage, a criminal conviction could be a consequence. Otherwise, this Wilful Damage (of the lesser severity) is commonly classified as a misdemeanour.
To commit the offence, the accused must have: • Caused the destruction or damage to property;
• Did so unlawfully; and
• Did so wilfully.
To be found guilty of a wilful damage charge, there must be proof that the accused did the three aforementioned things.
What are the consequences or penalties?
Section 169 of the Criminal Code states “(1) Any person who wilfully and unlawfully destroys or damages any property is guilty of an offence which, unless otherwise stated, is a misdemeanour, and the person is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for 5 years.”
Fines and other penalties can also be imposed; however, 5 years imprisonment is the maximum punishment for Wilful Damage of a general nature and is classed as a misdemeanour.
Severe or special cases could lead to higher penalties. Section 469 of the Criminal Code also refers to these special cases. This includes:
destroying or damaging premises by explosion (maximum penalty life imprisonment);
damaging seawalls (maximum penalty life imprisonment);
cause damage to a property in a cemetery or crematorium (maximum penalty 7 years imprisonment);
cause damage to an education institution (maximum penalty 7 years imprisonment);
cause damage by graffiti (maximum 7 years imprisonment);
cause damage to an official document, for example a title to land(maximum 7 years imprisonment);
cause damage to a will or other testamentary instrument (maximum penalty 14 years imprisonment);
cause damage to aircraft or railways (maximum penalty 14 years imprisonment in either case);
cause damage to a wreck or vessel in distress (maximum penalty 7 years imprisonment);
cause damage to “other things of special value” which means property such as, a lighting beacon used for nautical navigation, a water bore, or agricultural machinery (maximum penalty 7 years imprisonment).
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There are many defences available to the offence of wilful damage. Possible defences could be:
• The act was done accidentally, without intent;
• The person was acting under duress or compulsion (e.g., they were threatened with violence to commit the act); and/or
• The offence was committed out of necessity
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How Creevey Russell Can Help You
If you’ve been accused of Wilful Damage – we advise you seek guidance from a skilled law firm with proven experience.
You will always receive the highest level of service with us and our team of lawyers at Creevey Russell. We will fight for you, no matter how big or small the matter – with honest and understandable advice. We will treat you as our MOST important client, not just another number.
Our reach extends throughout western Queensland, with our Brisbane, Toowoomba and Roma offices delivering superior legal services to regional areas and the people who need it most.
Our clients come for our team, which has the insight, tenacity, and knowledge to efficiently and cost-effectively resolve almost any legal issue. But they stay for the service: at Creevey Russell we’ll listen, we’ll understand and we’ll look after you throughout the journey towards resolution.