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Criminal damage

If someone has deliberately destroyed or caused permanent damage to something that belongs to you, then you are a victim of criminal damage.

Mobile phone lying on a table with a smashed screen

It can be really upsetting when something that is important to you – maybe something you’ve saved up for, or something that was given to you as a gift – is deliberately damaged or broken by other people. It can also make you feel scared or unsafe if the damage happens to your home.

Remember that it’s never your fault. Only the offender is to blame and nobody has the right to damage or destroy your things.

What counts as criminal damage?

Legally, it is only criminal damage if it was done intentionally, so accidental damage does not count. And something that isn’t permanent doesn’t count either. So while smashing a wing mirror is criminal damage, throwing eggs at a car isn’t because it is not permanent. However, it may still be a crime – particularly if it happens more than once – as it may be considered antisocial behaviour.

Graffiti might be regarded as art by some people, and in some places. But to the police and to the owners of buildings, unauthorised art is criminal damage. Arson (deliberately trying to damage a place or someone’s property by setting fire to it) is also criminal damage.

Sometimes the damage is a one-off, but it may also be repeated – which may become antisocial behaviour, bullying, or even harassment. Or it may be targeted at you or your family because of your identity – perhaps your race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, or because of your disability. This is known as hate crime.

What can I do?

Being a victim of criminal damage can make you feel worried, sad, scared or angry, especially if you feel like you’re trying to deal with this all on your own. Lots of young people find that it can help if they talk to someone. Some things you can do are:

  • Talk to an adult you trust – this could be a family member, a teacher, your youth worker, social worker or support worker. Tell them about what’s happened and how it has made you feel. It can be difficult to know how to have this conversation; we have some tips on asking for help.
  • If the criminal damage happens more than once, write down what has happened soon after the event (including times and dates) as long as it is safe to do so. You can do this in a diary.
  • If you’re worried or feel unsafe because of what’s happened, talk to your trusted adult about developing a safety plan that would help you choose how best to keep yourself safe. 
  • Talk to your friends; a good friend will listen to you and may help you speak to an adult. 
  • Think about reporting it to the police. If you think you are at immediate risk of getting hurt, call 999.

If you are worried about a friend, we have some tips on how you can start the conversation and get them the right help

Who can help me?

Victim Support/You & Co – you can contact your nearest Victim Support office, call the 24/7 Supportline, contact us via live chat, or if you are 16 or older, you can create a My Support Space account. This is a free, safe and secure online space where you can work through interactive guides to help you move forward after crime.

Childline – 24-hour support for young people, both on the phone and through online chats and message boards, on crime, safety and a range of other issues: 0800 1111.

The Mix – information for under 25s on a whole range of issues. Get confidential help by email, text, webchat or phone: 0808 808 4994.

Crimestoppers – if you want to provide information about a crime without talking to the police, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

Asking for help

Are you thinking about reporting?