Police are still investigating the causes of a fire that destroyed the Crooked House Pub near Dudley, causing a lot of people to look closely the laws surrounding criminal damage.

In simple terms, you can harm or destroy your belongings, even by setting them on fire, if you don’t want them anymore. So, if you want to get rid of something, you can usually throw it in the bin, break it with a hammer, or, if you like, incinerate it.

Section 1(1) Criminal Damage Act 1971 reads:

‘A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another…’ [shall be guilty of an offence]

The crucial words in that section are ‘belonging to another’, i.e. property that is not yours.

So, this seems to affirm that you can, in fact, cause damage to your property without violating any criminal laws.

Nevertheless, there are other legal considerations to take into account. For instance, demolishing a building typically necessitates obtaining planning permission, and failing to do so may result in legal violations.

It is important to exercise prudence, as the demolition of a building, whether through conventional means or by setting it on fire, inherently carries certain risks. For this reason, the law introduces additional dimensions to the offence of criminal damage.

Section 1(2) states:

A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property, whether belonging to himself or another—

(a) intending to destroy or damage any property or being reckless as to whether any property would be destroyed or damaged; and

(b) intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another or being reckless as to whether the life of another would be thereby endangered;

shall be guilty of an offence.

This signifies that if the act of damaging the property poses a potential threat to human life, it is deemed a criminal offence, irrespective of property ownership, whether it is your own or someone else’s.

Legal regulations can be more intricate than they appear at first glance. We are well-equipped to provide personalized guidance on all matters related to criminal and regulatory law, ensuring that any actions you plan to undertake adhere to legal requirements.

In the legal landscape of England, criminal damage originally constituted a common law offence. It primarily focused on safeguarding residential properties and the food supply, with relatively minor penalties assigned for harm inflicted on personal possessions. Initially, accountability was confined to the restitution of damages as a form of compensation.

Over time, specific legal statutes were introduced to address particular circumstances, especially in tandem with the emergence of mechanization and urbanization during the Industrial Revolution.

The contemporary framework for criminal damage is predominantly encapsulated within the Criminal Damage Act of 1971. This legislation serves to redefine and establish various offences aimed at safeguarding property rights. The Act offers a comprehensive framework, encompassing acts ranging from preparatory actions to the most severe violations, such as arson and deliberate property damage with the intent to jeopardize lives. Consequently, the prescribed penalties span from fixed fines to life imprisonment, and the court may order the offender to provide compensation to the victim.

Since the incident at Crooked House Pub, there have been several arrests made by Staffordshire Police under conspiracy to commit arson.

Conspiracy to commit arson in UK law is a serious criminal offence, involving an agreement between two or more individuals to intentionally start a fire that endangers life or property. Such conspiracies are treated with great severity, as arson poses significant risks to life and property, making it a matter of public safety and concern. Those found guilty of conspiring to commit arson may face substantial penalties, including lengthy prison sentences, as the law places a high premium on deterring and punishing this dangerous activity.


How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819