A (A Juvenile) v R [1978] Crim LR 689

Criminal damage – compensation – Criminal Damage Act 1971


A was seen to have spat on a police officer’s rain jacket, during the course of being escorted from one location to another. The rain coat was used as evidence at the hearing and it had a faint mark on it where the spit had supposedly landed. The prosecution’s case relied on the fact that the coat needed dry cleaning and that it had been rendered imperfect as a result of this.


The issue in this case was whether the defendant spitting on the jacket in these circumstances could be considered as criminal damage within the meaning of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. It was important to understand in this case whether the rain coat had been rendered imperfect or inoperative in line with the wording in the statute.


The appeal against A’s conviction for criminal damage was allowed as it was found that there was no case to answer in this instance. There had been no attempt made by the officer to clean the rain jacket and if there had been, it could have been wiped with a damp cloth, which would have more than likely removed the mark with no stain remaining and no permanent damage. It was held that this might have been different had the material been more delicate, such as a wedding dress, or the material had stained and it required dry cleaning. Ultimately, it was such minor damage that it was not enough to trigger a penalty under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.