What is malicious damage to property?
Malicious damage of property offences are some of the most commonly reported crimes in New South Wales. Considered the intentional destruction or defacement of public or private property, the main offence is a crime under section 195(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). This offence occurs when a person:
- Damages or destroys,
- Property belonging to another or to that person, and
- The damage was caused intentionally or recklessly.
In relation to this crime, property is defined broadly to include all real and personal property, excluding intangible property. For example, property capable of being damaged may include a car, computer, a park bench, or a pet, but not stocks, securities, or debts.
Defining “destroys or damages”
To cause damage means to injure or harm the property in some way that, commonly, lessens its value. A person does not damage property unless they alter its physical integrity. This definition includes temporary damage or making something temporarily unusable, such as breaking a window or deflating a tyre.
Malicious damage penalties
The maximum penalty for an offence under section 195(a) is five years imprisonment. However, most offenders do not receive a prison sentence. Penalties typically include a fine, conditional release order, or community correction order. It is also possible for no conviction to be recorded. You can learn about the different types of penalties here.
In determining the severity of the sentence, the court will consider:
- The financial cost of the damage.
- The extent of the damage caused.
- The potential risk of injury to other people.
- The offender’s motive.
- The degree of planning and premeditation.
Some of the maximum penalties for other types of malicious damage offences are set out below:
|Offence||Maximum prison sentence|
|Destroying or damaging property||5 years|
|Destroying or damaging property in company||6 years|
|Destroying or damaging property during public disorder||7 years|
|Destroying or damaging property with intent to injure a person||7 years|
|Dishonestly destroying or damaging property||7 years|
|Destroying or damaging property dishonestly, during a public disorder||9 years|
|Destroying or damaging property, with the intention to endanger the life of another||25 years|