The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Arson
  • Arson
  • Damage
  • Property
  • Belonging to another
  • Recklessness
  • Lawful excuse
  • Sentence for arson


Damage to property caused by fire is charged as arson. In R v Booth arson was not specified in the charge and the court ruled the indictment a nullity. The court revisited this issue in R v Drayton, ruling that the allegation must at least be identified as 'damage by fire' so that the defendant has no doubt that the allegation is one of fire damage, which has a more severe penalty than other simple criminal damage. Simple arson, where life is not endangered, is triable either way. Where the criminal damage forming the basis of the charge is 'significant damage by fire' then a Crown Court trial is appropriate but summary trial may be appropriate in other cases.

Where arson is charged as an aggravated form of criminal damage, with intent to or being reckless as to the risk of endangering life, it is triable on indictment only.

The elements of the offence are:

  1. without lawful excuse

  2. destroys or damages property by fire

  3. belonging to themselves or another

  4. intending to damage or destroy property, or

  5. being reckless as to whether property was destroyed or damaged


Damage is not defined in the Criminal Damage Act 1971 (CDA 1971) save that section 10 provides that a modification of the contents of a computer or a computer storage medium is not damaging unless its effect on that computer or

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