The actus reus or the physical element that the prosecution is required to establish to successfully obtain a conviction for criminal damage as per the Criminal Damage Act of 1971 is simply damaging or destroying property. Damage as far as the act is concerned can be temporary and need not be permanent.
In Roe v Kingerlee (1986) the defendant smeared some mud on the walls of a police cell. The cost of cleaning the walls was nominal, but the defendant was nonetheless tried and convicted for causing criminal damage. The defendant appealed on the grounds that the damage was not permanent and therefore he ought not to be found guilty of criminal damage.
The conviction was upheld. The damage need not be permanent or long lasting and what amounts to criminal damage or otherwise, for the purposes of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 is for the courts to decide after taking into account all the facts that are made available to them.
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