Property damage

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In a protest, property damage can happen accidentally, incidentally, or on purpose.

Postering and graffiti can sometimes result in property damage charges.

In Victoria, there are also a number of offences about damaging property.

The most significant of these is section 197 of the Crimes Act1958 (Vic).

When intention is to simply damage property, the maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment.

Generally this section is used for the bigger instances of damage to property, where the damage to property costs more than $500 to repair.

If there was also an intention to also endanger life, there is a maximum penalty of 15 years jail. 

How police can use it for protests

This offence could be charged by police in situations involving:

  • gluing padlocks,
  • painting security cameras, or
  • pulling down a fence.

In addition, police will usually ask the court to order that the defendant repay the cost of the damage to the property. This can be a significant amount.


Other property damage offences

‘Willful damage’ charges are generally used for instances where there has been less significant damage to property.

Less serious property damage offences can be found in sections 7 and 9 of the Summary Offences Act1966 (Vic).

The maximum penalties are much lower: six months’ jail or a $2500 fine.

There are also numerous Local laws relevant to damage to property, graffiti and postering.

If you cause only minor damage you are unlikely to receive more than a small fine, but there is no guarantee.

If the graffiti work for instance is pleasing to the public – or can be easily washed off (like chalk) – you might be better off, but then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

However an occasional reactionary judge or magistrate could jail a political graffiti artist.

The public spiritedness of your art can help prevent such a severe penalty.

As always, if you are unsure about the penalty you may face, see a lawyer for advice, as every case is different.

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