s469 Criminal Code 1899 makes it an offence to damage property without consent of an owner.
What the prosecution must prove.
The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that a defendant
1. Damaged (or destroyed) the property described.
2. Did so wilfully.
What it means.
Property is damaged if it is rendered imperfect.
An act is willful if there was an intention to cause the harm done, or the act was deliberate and the defendant was aware the harm was likely and proceeded anyway.
Damage to property is unlawful if it is done without the consent of the owner. An interest in the property as a co-owner does not make the act lawful.
An act done to property with an intention to commit a fraud, for example damaging a car to make a false insurance claim is unlawful. The act is still unlawful even if the defendant is the sole owner of the property.
It is immaterial that a person who damages property is a part owner or owner in common if a person with an interest in the property does not consent.
The available defences.
Claim of Right
Mistake of Fact.
The offence of Wilful Damage can be finalised in the Magistrates Court if the value of the property is less than $30,000.00 or the matter is proceeding as a plea of guilty.
A defended matter involving property valued at more than $30,000.00 can only be finalised in the District Court.
The usual penalties.
The maximum penalty for the criminal offence of Wilful Damage is 5 years imprisonment.
The maximum penalty is increased to 14 years imprisonment if the property damaged is a will or any part of a railway or aircraft.
The maximum penalty is a poor numerical indicator of sentences usually imposed. It a plays role in setting the seriousness of an offence. The maximum penalty is hardly ever imposed.
The penalties for a first offence of this nature will usually be a bond, fine or community based order.
Factors that affect the appropriate penalty include the value of the property and the persistence of the offending.