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7.5.17 - Criminal Damage Intending to Endanger Life

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Overview

  1. Criminal damage intending to endanger the life of another is an offence under Crimes Act 1958 s197(2).
  2. A number of related but discrete offences have also been created by s197 and the surrounding provisions. These are addressed separately in the following topics:

    Elements

  3. The offence of criminal damage intending to endanger the life of another has the following four elements:
    1. The accused destroyed or damaged property;
    2. The accused intended to destroy or damage property;
    3. The accused intended by the damage or destruction to endanger the life of another;
    4. The accused did not have a lawful excuse for his or her actions.
  4. There is significant overlap between the elements of this offence and the elements of criminal damage (s197(1)). However, there are three important differences:
  5. This topic only addresses the third element of the offence. For information concerning the other elements, see Criminal Damage.

    Intending to Endanger the Life of Another

  6. The third element that the prosecution must prove is that the accused intended, by the damage or destruction, to endanger the life of another person (Crimes Act 1958 s197(2)).
  7. Section 197(5) sets out the requirements for proving this element. A person only intends to endanger the life of another person if:
    1. One of his or her purposes is to endanger the life of another by the damage or destruction; or
    2. He or she knows or believes that the life of another is more likely than not to be endangered by the damage or destruction (Crimes Act 1958 s197(5)).
  8. The prosecution must prove that the accused intended the danger to arise from the damage or destruction, rather than from the act that caused that damage or destruction (R v Steer [1988] AC 111; R v Wenton [2010] EWCA Crim 2361; R v Webster [1995] 2 All ER 168).
  9. Thus, if the relevant act is dropping a rock on a passing train:
  10. Given the potentially fine distinctions that must be drawn in relation to this issue, it is essential that the trial judge carefully identify the way in which the prosecution alleges that the accused intended to endanger life. The directions must not conflate the danger created by the damage to the property with any danger created by the act causing the damage (R v Steer [1988] AC 111; R v Wenton [2010] EWCA Crim 2361; R v Webster [1995] 2 All ER 168).
  11. Where a person knows or believes that destroying or damaging property is more likely than not to endanger the life of another, he or she must take steps to avoid creating the risk. It is not sufficient for him or her to take steps to mitigate the danger once it has been created (R v Merrick [1995] EWCA Crim 5; Chief Constable of Avon v Shimmen [1987] 84 Cr App R 7).
  12. The jury must look at the degree and type of damage the accused intended to cause by his or her conduct. This element may be satisfied even if the accused caused less damage than expected, caused a different kind of damage, or the damage caused did not create an objective risk to another (R v Dudley [1989] Crim LR 57; R v Webster [1995] 2 All ER 168).

    Alternative Offence

  13. The offence of criminal damage (s197(1)) is a statutory alternative to the offence of criminal damage intending to endanger the life of another (Crimes Act 1958 s427).

 

Last updated: 19 October 2011

In This Section

7.5.17.1 - Charge: Criminal Damage Intending to Endanger Life

7.5.17.2 - Checklist: Criminal Damage Intending to Endanger Life

See Also

7.5 - Dishonesty and Property Offences

7.5.1 - Theft

7.5.2 - Robbery

7.5.3 - Armed Robbery

7.5.4 - Burglary

7.5.5 - Aggravated Burglary

7.5.6 – Home Invasion

7.5.7 – Aggravated Home Invasion

7.5.8 – Carjacking

7.5.9 – Aggravated Carjacking

7.5.10 - Handling Stolen Goods

7.5.11 - Recent Possession

7.5.12 - Obtaining Property By Deception

7.5.13 - Obtaining a Financial Advantage By Deception

7.5.14 - Making or Using a False Document

7.5.15 - Blackmail

7.5.16 - Criminal Damage

7.5.18 - Criminal Damage With a View to Gain

7.5.19 - Arson

7.5.20 - Arson Causing Death

7.5.21 - Intentionally or Recklessly Causing a Bushfire