Crime CLXXXIII-Criminal Damage XXIII

The property that is damaged must be tangible i.e. property that is discernable and quantifiable and therefore it is possible to put a monetary value on it.

In R v Whiteley (1991) the defendant, a hacker was convicted for damaging the information in a computer disc. The defendant argued that for the purposes of the Criminal Damage Act (1971) the property must be tangible as per s. 10 (1) of the act. The section reads as follows: –

In this Act “property” means property of a tangible nature, whether real or personal, including money and—

(a) including wild creatures which have been tamed or are ordinarily kept in captivity, and any other wild creatures or their carcasses if, but only if, they have been reduced into possession which has not been lost or abandoned or are in the course of being reduced into possession; but

(b) not including mushrooms growing wild on any land or flowers, fruit or foliage of a plant growing wild on any land

The defendant argued that he damaged only the intangible information in the disk and not the disk itself. The argument was rejected in the first instance and the defendant appealed.

On appeal the conviction was upheld. “What the act requires to be proved is that tangible property had been damaged, not necessarily that the damage itself should be tangible” – Lord Lane, C.J.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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