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Property Damage In Canberra

In the Australian Capital Territory, it is an offence to destroy or damage another person’s property without their consent. A person can be charged with property damage in Canberra under either the Criminal Code 2002 or the Crimes Act 1900. There are different penalties that apply depending on the nature of the allegations and which act the person has been charged under. Under some circumstances, damaging property can be classed as a family violence offence.  This article outlines the offences that apply to damaging property in Canberra.

Damaging property in Canberra

Property damage offences under the Crimes Act are as follows.

Simple offence

When a person is alleged to have damaged property in Canberra and the value of the property does not exceed $5000, they will likely be charged under Section 116(3) of the Act. This offence applies where a person has intentionally or recklessly damaged property belonging to another and the damage was not caused by fire or explosives. The maximum penalty that applies to this offence is two years imprisonment.

Where life is endangered

When a person is alleged to have destroyed or damaged property with the intent to endanger the life of a person, they are liable to a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 20 years.

This charge is commonly laid after someone destroys a house while another person is inside. A person may also be charged with this if they intentionally crash a vehicle with the intent of endangering the life of the passengers.

With a view to gain

When a person is alleged to have destroyed or damaged property with a view to gain for themselves or for others, they are liable to a maximum penalty of a fine of 300 penalty units of imprisonment for 15 years.

Criminal damage under the Criminal Code

Under the Criminal Code 2002, there is also an offence involving criminal damage

A person who intentionally or recklessly causes damage to the property of another person is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of up to 1000 penalty units or imprisonment for up to 10 years.

What must be proved

To find a person guilty of criminal damage in Canberra, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That the accused intended to cause, or recklessly caused, the destruction of or damage to property; and
  • That the property belonged to someone else, or was jointly owned by the accused and someone else.

The onus is on the prosecution to prove the value of the property.


A person charged with a property damage offence may rely on a number of defences. These include the following.

Sudden and extraordinary emergency

A person is not guilty of an offence if they damage property in the context of an emergency, where it is necessary to do so. An example of this is where a person rips up another person’s clothing in order to bandage a profusely bleeding wound.

Where consent was given

A person is not guilty of an offence if they damage the property of another with the consent of the owner. An example of this is where a person has agreed to let their neighbour break up some old furniture and use it as firewood.


A person is not guilty of an offence where they have damaged or destroys property accidentally. These offences are only made out where it can be shown that the damage was caused intentionally or recklessly.


If a person is charged with the simple offence of criminal damage under the Crimes Act, the matter will be finalised in the Magistrates Court if they are an adult and in the Children’s Court if they are a juvenile.  

If a person is charged with one of the more serious criminal damage offences under the Crimes Act, or with the offence under the Code, the matter will be heard and determined in the ACT Supreme Court, unless the parties consent to the matter remaining before a magistrate.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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