May 24, 2019

GP v DPP – Successful appeal of conviction for malicious damage charges in High Court

Charges, statutes, outcomes

  • High Court Appeal
  • Appeal
  • Malicious Damage
  • DPP
  • Intentionally or recklessly destroy/damage property
  • Section 195 (1)(a) Crimes Act 1900
  • Meaning of “damage”
  • Appellant
  • Intentionally or recklessly
  • Damaging property
  • s 195 (1)(a)
  • District Court dismissed appeal
  • Court of Criminal Appeal

Facts:

In a recent landmark High Court case, O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors represented a client who appealed their conviction and sentence for the offence of intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging property belonging to another as pursuant to s 195 (1)(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).  Our client climbed onto a ship loader during a protest. The loader was shut down due to safety concerns and he then used a harness and rope to lock himself to the ship loader and lowered himself into a position that was deemed of serious harm to himself. The facts of this case state the ship loader remained inoperable until our client was removed after a period of around two hours.

Subsequently, our client was charged with an offence pursuant to s 195(1)(a) of doing “damage [to] property causing the temporary impairment of the working machinery” of the ship loader and convicted of this offence before Newcastle Local Court. Our client then appealed this conviction to the District Court of NSW at Newcastle, stating a case to the Court of Criminal Appeal asking whether the facts could support a finding of guilt for such a charge which answered “yes.”

Outcome of the appeal

Our client, the appellant, then appealed to the High Court by grant of special leave. The High Court held, in a majority decision, that ‘damage’ to property within the scope of s 195(1) requires proof that a person’s act or omission has occasioned some alteration to the physical integrity of the property, even if only temporarily. The majority held, that in the scope of ‘ordinary English’, a thing is not damaged if the physical integrity of the thing is not altered in any respect.

In short, the ship loader was shut down due to safety concerns and not because our client had brought about any alteration to its physical integrity. As a result of the efforts of O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors, the High Court held that the facts as stated by the District Court were not capable of supporting a finding of guilt and ordered our client’s conviction be quashed.

O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors are experienced in defending High Court of Australia applications including representing appellants, having assisted many clients in doing so. If you have been charged with an offence and think a similar course of action is appropriate in your situation, call us today on (02) 9261 4281 to discuss your legal options.