What is Wilful Damage
Any person who wilfully and unlawfully destroys or damages any property in Queensland commits a wilful damage offence.
The elements of the offence therefore are that the accused:
- destroyed (or damaged) any property;
- did so wilfully; and
- did so unlawfully.
The police need to prove all three of the above elements in order to for a person to be found guilty of a wilful damage charge.
For the purposes of this offence, property is considered “damaged” when it is rendered imperfect or inoperative. In Queensland, it is not necessary for the police to prove that money was required to restore the property to its original condition.
If the property is fixed in a square or street, or in a place dedicated to public use or ornament, or to anything in or taken from a public place, it is not necessary for the police to prove that the property was actually owned by any person. Therefore the police can charge a person with wilful damage even if they cannot prove that it was owned by anyone.
What is the Penalty
The penalty will depend on a number of different factors.
For a simple wilful damage offence, the offence is classified as a misdemeanour and the offender is liable to imprisonment for up to 5 years. However depending on the type of property that was damaged or the circumstances of the offending, the penalty can increase up to life imprisonment. For example, a person will be liable to life imprisonment if they cause damage to premises using an explosion and someone is in those premises when the explosion happens. These more serious wilful damage offences are classified as crimes.
The penalty will also depend on which court they are sentenced in. In the Magistrates Court, the majority of people receive fines or probation. However in the District and Supreme Courts where more serious wilful damage crimes are handled, many people receive sentences of imprisonment for six months or more.
If a sentence of imprisonment is imposed, a criminal conviction has to be recorded.
How We Can Help You
If you have been charged with a wilful damage crime or misdemeanour, we can help guide you through the process. Importantly, we can review the police case against you and recommend whether you should plead guilty or not. If you choose to plead guilty, we can help with minimising any penalty you might receive. Alternatively if you decide to plead not guilty, we can provide expert representation in court to defend your rights.