Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Criminal Damage is an offence that every magistrate will be familiar with. The Guidelines point to a wide range of penalties for an offence that can have a variety of aspects that affect seriousness. Fines, discharges, and, for the worst cases, custody are all prescribed, but in every case we must consider compensation. It has always seemed to me that there is a neatly just solution in making the person who commits damage pay for it. The sums involved can be very high: for example a drunken young man who thought it a good idea to lob a concrete litter bin through a shop window in order to lay hands on a £2.50 bottle of alcohol found himself looking at a bill for almost £2000 for repairs, making it a very expensive drink. We still have quite a bit of discretion about compensation and where we do not have a proper invoice we can use our personal judgment to settle on a rough-and-ready figure, which is what we did today. We were not happy about the undocumented claim , so we cut it in half. If we were wrong (which I doubt) the loser can always lodge a civil claim.