Understanding the Offence of Intentionally or Recklessly Damage or Destroy Property in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

It was an ordinary Saturday night of drinking and dancing for revellers at Adelaide’s nightclub, Fat Controller – that is, until they were forced to evacuate the premises after a water pipe, believed to have been damaged by a patron, caused the club to flood.

On 11 August 2019, just after 5am, police and emergency services were called to the Fat Controller nightclub situated on North Terrace following reports that the place was overflowing in a heavy downpour.

Video of the incident was quick to emerge on social media, revealing water gushing down from an overhead pipe and forcefully spraying patrons shortly after 5am.

In the video, an alarm can be heard as partygoers begin to evacuate the popular city nightclub, with some filming the cascade of water while others express their confusion.

“What the f*** is going on cuz,” one reveller yells.

The flooding was so severe that it spread to the nearby underpass, which is used by commuters to travel between the Adelaide Railway Station and the Station Arcade.

Security swiftly ushered out the patrons, some forced to leave their belongings behind.

Rebekah Reardon, 22, of Melrose Park, who was at the club at the time of the flooding, said she “turned around and got sprayed with water”.

“Then there was chaos – everyone was just running through the water,” Ms Reardon said.

Luckily, no one was injured in the incident.

 

Police Believe Patron may have Damaged Water Pipe Which Caused Flooding

While police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the deluge, it is now believed a patron may have been responsible for impairing the water pipe after CCTV footage provided by the venue revealed a man swinging from the overhead pipe.

In the vision, a young man can be seen dancing on a table at Fat Controller before he grips onto a pipe above his head using one hand and swings to the ground.

As he carried this out, the pipe suddenly bursts and starts engulfing the nightspot in water.

The man can then be seen unconcernedly strolling away.

He does not look back as the water surges behind him.

Addressing the incident, a police spokesman said, “Police investigating believe a water pipe was deliberately damaged by a patron in the nightclub and are working with the venue to obtain CCTV to identify the person responsible for this act.”

Police investigations are continuing to find the identity of the man for purposes of prosecuting him for damage or destroy property charges.

Understanding the Offence of Intentionally or Recklessly Damaging or Destroying Property in NSW

Put simply, the offence of intentionally or recklessly damaging or destroying property means that you end up destroying or damaging someone else’s property either intentionally or recklessly.

Recklessly doing this means that the offender at the time of committing the offence realised that the kind of damage that was done might be caused but still committed the offending conduct regardless.

This offence is outlined in section 195 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

A property is considered ‘damaged’ in a number of ways under the law, including:

  1. Temporary functional derangement in the way outlined in the case of Samuels v Stubbs (1972) 4 SASR 200; or
  2. Physical harm or impairment to the value or usefulness in the way outlined in the case of Morphitis v Salmon (1990) Crim Law Reports 48; or
  3. Imperfect or inoperative in the way outlined in the case of Zischke (1982) Qd. R. 240; or
  4. Alteration to the physical integrity of the property as outlined in the High Court case of Grajewski v Director of Public Prosecutions (NSW) [2019] HCA 8.

Click here for a detailed outline on what constitutes ‘damage’ under the law in NSW.

There is a maximum penalty of up to 5-years imprisonment for committing this offence in NSW.

Where this offence is committed in the company of another person, the penalty increased to 6-years imprisonment in NSW.

The maximum penalty is 10-years prison for damaging or destroying someone’s property as a result of a fire or explosive.

If this offence is committed in the company of another person where the damage or destruction is a result of a fire or explosive, the penalty increases to 11-years imprisonment.

If the offence of damage or destroy property is committed during a public disorder, the maximum penalty is 7-years imprisonment. But if this offence is committed by a fire or explosive, the maximum penalty is 12-years imprisonment.

A defence to a charge of damage or destroy property is if the property was exclusively owned by you or where you acted in self defence to property the property or to protect yourself or another person.

Here a “public disorder” is defined as “a riot or other civil disturbance that gives rise to a serious risk to public safety, whether at a single location or resulting from a series of incidents in the same or different locations.” (section 4 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)).

“Property” includes every description of real and personal property; money, valuable securities, debts, and legacies; and all deeds and instruments relating to, or evidencing the title or right to any property, or giving a right to recover or receive any money or goods; and includes not only property originally in the possession or under the control of any person, but also any property into or for which the same may have been converted or exchanged, and everything acquired by such conversion or exchange, whether immediately or otherwise.

Do you have a question arising from this blog?

Our Sydney and Parramatta based criminal defence lawyers are available for a free initial consultation.

Call our friendly team 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.

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