Damaged or Stolen Property
Establishing the cause
It is important to find out whether the damage has been caused maliciously, through negligence or by accident, as getting some form of compensation depends on this.
In cases of serious loss or damage, the police may have been called in to investigate and insurance assessors, if necessary. It is always useful to take photographs of damage done or get statements from anyone who saw what happened.
Criminal and malicious damage
If the police think there has been an offence committed they will make a report with the facts of the case and if there is enough evidence, the case will be taken to court.
If the police don’t find enough evidence for a conviction, there may still be the chance of a civil action as long as there is some evidence.
If there is to be a prosecution in the Magistrate’s Court, the owner of the damaged or stolen property should get estimates or quotes for the repair or replacement of the damaged items and give these to the Centenier bringing the case. They can then ask for a Compensation Order to be made.
The amount of compensation which can be given in the Magistrate’s Court is limited. Getting a compensation order stops the victim of the damage or theft from suing the person responsible in the civil courts.
If the offender is fined, payment of the compensation takes precedence over the fine. The Viscount’s Department can be asked to enforce the order if the compensation is not paid.
The court will take into account the property and earnings of the offender when making a Compensation Order and the full amount owed may not be given.
Bringing a civil action for compensation
When there are no criminal actions being brought, it may be possible to bring a civil action. This will depend on what evidence has been gathered by the victim and whether the person responsible will be able to pay.
Always take legal advice before going ahead.
The only method of getting compensation when the people responsible are unknown is to try to make an insurance claim. If the damage has been caused to a vehicle by another vehicle and the driver is not known, then you could perhaps claim through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.
Accidental damage can be caused to property in many ways and you can only usually get compensation if there has been negligence on someone’s part.
The victim of this type of damage should make sure that they get as much evidence of the damage as possible. This may include photos, expert opinions, estimates of the value of damage, witness statements, reports by bodies such as Health and Safety Inspectorate at Customer and Local Services.
If the person who caused the damage has public liability insurance, a claim should be made against their policy. This may need to be done through a lawyer, so legal advice should be taken.
If the damage was purely an accident with no negligence on anyone’s part, only an insurance policy may be able to provide any help. Check any household insurance policy, if you have one.
The Hire Purchase Company or Leasing Company should be told if there is loss or damage to property which is the subject of an Hire Purchase agreement or Leasing Agreement.
Sometimes agreements make it necessary for the person who has taken out the lease to insure the item against loss or damage and if no insurance has been arranged then the person taking out the lease or hire purchase will be liable for all costs.
Re-payments or leasing charges have to continue to be paid until the agreement is cancelled by the Company. This might mean you are paying for something that you no longer own or is damaged and can’t be used.
Damage caused minors
In law no child under 10 years can be guilty of an offence, so damage or theft carried out by a child under that age can’t be punished and compensation cannot be sought.
A child between 10 and 14 must be shown to have acted with mischievous discretion i.e. that they knew what they were doing was wrong. If a child is found guilty by the Youth Court, the court may order the owner of the property that was damaged or stolen to be compensated in some way, perhaps by the parents. The owner of the property should ask the Centenier to suggest to the Youth Court that compensation is paid.
Older children and young people aged 14 to 17 found guilty of damage or theft by the Youth Court could be ordered to make repayment from pocket money or part-time earnings.
Minors under the age of 18 are not legally responsible for their debts, except for essential items and anyone trying to get compensation from young people may be able to take action against their parents. You should get legal advice before going ahead .