In practice, ‘damage’ has a wide meaning under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 and can even include an act which affects the value or performance of property (e.g. a car or house)
The value of the damage is crucial. If it is less than £5,000, the case will be heard by magistrates; above £10,000, it can be dealt with either by Magistrates or in the Crown Court. In practice, cases valued between £5,000 and £10,000 are usually dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court unless the damage caused was particularly significant.
If convicted in the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum sentence is one of six months’ imprisonment; in the Crown Court, it is 10 years.
If property has been damaged or destroyed by fire, the offence of Arson will apply. This is dealt with under s.1 (3) of the Act.
The seriousness of a sentence increases with the extent of the damage caused.
Arson with Intent to Endanger Life can only be dealt with in the Crown Court and can be punishable with a life sentence.
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