Activist Rights

Property damage

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Damage to property could occur unintentionally during an action or may be an actual part of the political protest. Postering and graffiti can sometimes result in these charges.

In Victoria there are also a number of offences which relate to damaging property. The most significant of these is section 197 of the Crimes Act1958 (Vic) which provides for jail sentences of up to 15 years where there is an intention to endanger life or damage property.

Where the 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.

This offence could be charged by police in situations involving gluing padlocks, painting security cameras or pulling down a fence. The penalty is a jail sentence of up to 10 years. 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.

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Wilful 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.

You should always remember the courts only impose the maximum penalty where a person has many prior convictions and/or commits the worst type of the particular offence.

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, you might be better off, but then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Penalties and compensation orders would generally be less, say, for chalk than for paint graffiti. However an occasional reactionary judge or magistrate will 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.