Hardman v Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset [1986] Crim LR 330

Criminal damage – meaning of ‘damage’


The appellants were part of a group of protestors called the ‘Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Group’. They used soluble paint to paint human silhouettes on the pavement to represent the fortieth anniversary of the bombing in Hiroshima. The paint that they used was specially mixed so it could be washed away by rainwater within a matter of days. Before this could happen, the local authority washed the markings away, sending in a team of cleaners who used high pressure washers to clean the pavement. The protestors were convicted for causing criminal damage and subsequently appealed the decision.


The appellants submitted that there was no ‘damage’ in line with the Criminal Damage Act 1971 and within the meaning of A v R (1978) Crim LR 689. An important issue in this case was to understand at which point the actions would be considered damage under this legislation.


In this case, it did not matter that the markings could be washed away, there had been damage nonetheless as there had been expense and inconvenience caused to the local authority. The court followed Samuels v Stubbs [1972] 4 SASR 200 in finding that ‘damage’ may be used in the sense of ‘mischief done to property’. This case is useful due to the widespread nature of graffiti. Motive was not taken into consideration, nor was the fact that the damage could be remedied. The fact that such a remedy cost money seemed to provide sufficient evidence as to the damage that was caused in this instance.