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Liability of Desmond

Desmond is criminally liable for damage of property under Criminal Damage Act 1971 (CDA 1971). Breaking the front window of Candice’s house constitutes a criminal act. Section 1(1) of the CDA 1971 provides that a person is guilty of an offence if he destroys or damages property of another person. This Section will be applicable if the property belongs to another person, if the person who destroyed or damaged the property had not lawful excuse, and there was intention or recklessness while he destroyed the property. As in the current case, throwing the piece of concrete that broke Candice’s front window in anger for broken fences cannot be considered lawful reason. This provision is therefore applicable to Desmond. There cannot be any criminal offence unless all the mentioned elements are proved in the current case.


The central element is the destruction or damage of the property. Damage should be provided its ordinary meaning, and its meaning depends on the nature and use of the property. The test of whether there is damage is to determine whether the value or the use of the property has been impaired by the conduct of the defendant (Herring, 2011). In the current case, breaking Candice’s front window has impaired the use of the window thereby causing damage to the property. On the other hand, it must be proved that there is intention to damage or destruct the property of another person (Martin & Storey, 2015). Such mens rea relates to all the circumstances surrounding a criminal act, which caused damage or destruction to the property of another person (Smith (1974) 1 All ER 632, 1974). Therefore, if the defendant intends to do what is caused and if there is damage because of the act, the defendant has the mens rea to commit the offence (Seray-White (2012) EWHC 208 Admin, 2012). Further, within Section 1 of the CDA 1971, the act of a person is reckless if he is aware of a risk that it exists, will exist, or will occur, and it is not reasonable to take the risk in the circumstances known to him (The Crown Prosecution Service, 2017). The case of R v G & R laid down this test of recklessness for criminal damage (R v G & R [2003] 3 WLR, 2003). This test is objective in nature. The defendant is held liable for not adverting to a risk that would have been obvious to a reasonable person (Martin & Storey, 2015).

In the current case, the act of Desmond was out of anger. He broke the window, but was surprised that his throw was able to reach so far. Together with the fact that he was embarrassed at the consequences, his conduct could be aptly termed as being reckless even though he might not have really intended in causing damage to Candice’s property. Section 4(2)(A) of the CDA 1971 provides that such an offence incurs conviction on indictment of imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

Liability of Candice

Candice will be criminally liable for property damage and endangering life under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. The act of Candice to turn and walk away when she knew that the flames were spreading towards Desmond’s back yard constitutes a criminal act and incurs liability. Section 1(2)(b) CDA 1971 holds a person guilt of an offence if he had no lawful excuse to destroy or damage his or another’s property and if with such destruction or damage intended to endanger the life of another or if he showed recklessness in whether the life of another would be endangered.

Section 1(2)(b) will be applicable in the current case. Candice wanted to punish Desmond for hurting her dog. Therefore, she did not do anything to prevent the flame when it was spreading towards Desmond’s courtyard. This cannot be considered a lawful reason for damaging somebody’s property. Further, she walked away from the flame despite having a momentary thought of whether Desmond could be inside the property. This indicates an intention to endanger the life of another. Destruction or damaging property by fire is a criminal offence under the CDA 1971. Section 1(3) of the CDA 1971 charged this offence as arson. This offence involves an intention to destroy or damage property, or recklessness as to whether life would be endangered by such destruction or damage (Monaghan, 2014).

In the current case, the key factor is to establish whether there is an intention or recklessness as to endanger life. In R v Steer, it was stated that the prosecution should show that the danger to life must come from the destruction or damage of the property (R v Steer [1988] 1 AC 111, 1988). This found support in R v Warwick that ruled that an accused may be guilty, if there was an intention or recklessness to bring danger to life by damage (R v Warwick [1995] 2 All ER 168, CA, 1995). In R v Dudley, it was ruled that it is sufficient if by damaging the property, the defendant intended or was reckless as to endangering life. Therefore, it is not necessary for the prosecution to show that the damage in fact endangered life or created a risk to life. It was ruled that an accused is reckless if his conduct of damaging property creates an obvious risk that endangers life; he does not consider the possibility of existence of the risk, or he is aware of the risk but still takes the risk (R v Dudley [1989] Crim LR 57, 1989). If the intention or recklessness is obvious, only one offence may be charged. But, if there is lesser clarity, both the offences should be charged in the alternative (The Crown Prosecution Service, 2017).

In the current case, Candice was aware that the fire could cause damage to the property and endangered life of Desmond. She had every intention as well as reckless as to endangering the life of Desmond by causing damage to Desmond’s property. Even if the spread harm started accidentally, Candice may be held liable for her failure to halt the spread of the flame, as was held in R v Miller (R v Miller [1983] 2 WLR 539, 1983). Thus, under Section 4(1), Candice is guilty of arson and shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for life.



    1. Herring, J., 2011. Criminal Law. s.l.:Palgrave MacMillan.
    2. Martin, J. & Storey, T., 2015. Unlocking Criminal Law. 5th ed. s.l.:Routledge.
    3. Monaghan, N., 2014. Criminal Law Directions. s.l.:Oxford University Press.


    1. The Crown Prosecution Service, 2017. Criminal Damage. [Online] Available at:
    2. http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/a_to_c/criminal_damage/[Accessed 4 12 2017].

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