What do I need to know about car vandalism and the law?

What do I need to know about car vandalism and the law?

Vandalism is a criminal offence and anybody found guilty will face criminal punishment, which could be a large fine or imprisonment depending on the severity of the action.

The act of vandalism is defined as a deliberate act with the intention to cause damage to somebody else’s property. You therefore do not commit vandalism if you cause damage accidentally, though you may still be liable in civil law, or even face criminal punishment if you fail to report it.

Car vandalism is unfortunately very common with scratching a vehicle with a key and slashing somebody’s tyres often reported to the police after a row between two people. There is of course a significant amount of mindless vandalism with cars very susceptible as they commonly are accessible on the streets.

If your car window has been smashed, your tyres slashed, your car scratched, or been damaged in any other way then you should report the matter to the police. The police should investigate the problem, though unless there is any CCTV evidence or eye witnesses the police will often struggle to find the culprit and you will be left having to pay the cost of the damage caused by the vandalism.

Punishments for vandalism

If any individual is caught committing vandalism they will face criminal prosecution. Generally, when the damage caused is repairable at a cost of less than £5,000 the punishment will be handed out at the local magistrates’ court. The severity of any punishment will hinge on how much damage the act of vandalism caused (including any non-monetary damage), the cost of repair, the reason for the vandalism, and any previous convictions against the individual who caused the vandalism.

For offences of this nature the individual may face up to a maximum three months in jail along with a fine, which can be as much as £2,500. Imprisonment is unlikely if this is an individual’s first offence unless the act of vandalism could have caused far more serious damage.

If the damage caused by the act of vandalism is over £5,000 the individual could potentially face up to six months in jail and a fine of £5,000. It should be noted that more severe acts will carry a more severe punishment, but generally these will not be classed as vandalism. For example, if a car is deliberately set on fire, whilst this could be seen as an act of vandalism, it is more likely to be treated as arson, which can carry much heavier penalties.

Acts of vandalism on motor vehicles are often caused by minors, often in large groups, looking to impress their mates. Owing to the fact they are minors and therefore should be treated differently by criminal law, at least in terms of the punishments handed out, there are several other punishment options which can be handed out to minors. Penalty notices can be handed out by both the police and local authorities which include on-the-spot fines. Generally, these fines will be £60 for those under the age of 16, and £80 for those under 18. Again, the punishment will be far greater if the act of vandalism leads to something more serious.

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