Whether you think of it as harmless fun, or there’s malice to your intent, letting someone’s vehicle tyres down could be a criminal offence.
- Letting tyres down could be perceived as a malicious act on someone’s property
- Fines and imprisonment may be enforced for damaging property
- Rules vary depending on the jurisdiction
This has become a trend among ‘climate activists’ in recent times, with reports of vehicles having the air let out of their tyres, or having their tyres slashed – an act of vandalism that could see those guilty of doing so prosecuted, fined and possibly even jailed.
One such group behind this misguided trend even has a “how to deflate an SUV tyre” instruction leaflet on its website, which – fortunately – doesn’t suggest slashing the tyres, rather letting them down as one would deflate their tyres when going off-road. The group even suggests you use a green lentil to do it!
That group has been quoted as saying that in some jurisdictions around the world, letting the air out of the tyres of an SUV “may not even meet the threshold for criminal damage”.
However, if you are found to damage the property of someone else, you could face criminal charges, and that’s applicable whether the target is a car, trailer, caravan, horse-float, ute, SUV, truck or bus.
Clearly there is a lot of room left for interpretation of these laws and penalties, but the overarching nationwide message is that you are not allowed to damage someone else’s property – and letting down someone’s tyres could be seen as an offence that might get you fined or see you spend time behind bars.
Here’s a rundown of the potential worst-case scenarios for damaging the property of others:
New South Wales: If you are found to enact what could be described as ‘malicious damage’ to someone else’s property in NSW, you may be prosecuted under Part 4AD of the Crimes Act 1900 No 40, Destroying or damaging property, where:
(1) A person who intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another or to that person and another is liable—
- (a) to imprisonment for 5 years, or
- (b) if the destruction or damage is caused by means of fire or explosives, to imprisonment for 10 years.
(1A) A person who, in the company of another person or persons, intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another or to that person and another is liable—
- (a) to imprisonment for 6 years, or
- (b) if the destruction or damage is caused by means of fire or explosives, to imprisonment for 11 years.
(2) A person who, during a public disorder, intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another or to that person and another is liable—
- (a) to imprisonment for 7 years, or
- (b) if the destruction or damage is caused by means of fire or explosives, to imprisonment for 12 years.
Victoria: The Road Safety Act 1986, section 70, Tampering or interfering with motor vehicle without just cause or excuse, states:
- (1) A person who, without just cause or excuse, tampers or interferes with a motor vehicle owned by any other person is guilty of an offence. Penalty: 2 penalty units ($384.62) or imprisonment for 14 days.
- (1A) A person must not, without just cause or excuse, tamper or interfere with specified equipment fitted or attached to a motor vehicle. Penalty: 25 penalty units ($4807.75).
Queensland: Under the Criminal Code 1899, Section 469 – Wilful damage, anyone found to act with intent to damage someone else’s personal property may find themselves in big trouble:
(1) Any person who wilfully and unlawfully destroys or damages any property is guilty of an offence which, unless otherwise stated, is a misdemeanour, and the person is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for 5 years.
(2) For this section, other than punishment in special cases, clause 11, the destruction or damage of property that is a thing mentioned in section 566 (11) is presumed to be done without the owner’s consent until the contrary is proved.
(3) For this section, punishment in special cases, clause 11, the destruction or damage of property is, until the contrary is proved, presumed to be done—
- (a) without the owner’s consent; and
- (b) if the property is fixed in a cemetery or at a crematorium—
- (i) without the lawful consent of the entity (if any) responsible for managing and administering the cemetery or crematorium; and
- (ii) not in the reasonable belief that lawful consent mentioned in subparagraph (i) has been given.
South Australia: Under the state’s Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 – Section 85:
(2) A person who, without lawful excuse, damages (other than by fire or explosives) another’s property that is a building or motor vehicle—
- (a) intending to damage property; or
- (b) being recklessly indifferent as to whether his or her conduct damages property, is guilty of an offence.
The maximum penalty for such is “Imprisonment for 10 years”.
Western Australia: According to WA’s Criminal Code Part VI – Offences relating to property and contracts, section 444 Criminal damage, states that:
Any person who wilfully and unlawfully destroys or damages any property is guilty of a crime and is liable ¾
- (a) if the property is destroyed or damaged by fire, to imprisonment for 14 years or, if the offence is committed in circumstances of racial aggravation, to imprisonment for 20 years; or
- (b) if the property is not destroyed or damaged by fire, to imprisonment for 10 years or, if the offence is committed in circumstances of racial aggravation, to imprisonment for 14 years.
WA also has an alternative offence. S. 445, whereby there is a summary conviction penalty: for an offence where: (a) the property is not destroyed or damaged by fire; and (b) the amount of the injury done does not exceed $25,000, then the offender could face imprisonment for 3 years and a fine of $36,000.
However, the most likely penalty will be imposed for “unlawful interference with mechanism of motor vehicles” under the Road Traffic Act 1974 (Part VI – Miscellaneous – 90), which could be a $400 fine in the first instance, and thereafter $800 or six months imprisonment.
Tasmania: Section 37 – Offences relating to property in the Police Offences Act 1935 states:
“A person shall not unlawfully destroy or injure any property”. And that a person found to contravene that directive “is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding 10 penalty units ($1950) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months”.
ACT: The Australian Capital Territory’s Crimes Act 1900 – Section 116, Destroying or damaging property, states:
3) A person commits an offence if—
(a) the person destroys or causes damage to property, other than by fire or explosive; and
(b) the property belongs to—
- (i) someone else; or
- (ii) the person and someone else; and
(c) the person intends to destroy or cause damage, or is reckless about destroying or causing damage, to the property; and
(d) the damage to the property does not exceed $5000.
If those are the parameters, the fine could be 50 penalty units ($8000), and / or imprisonment for two years.
Northern Territory: In the NT, Section 241 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) suggests that a crime is committed if someone damages another person’s property.
- A person is guilty of an offence if the person causes damage to property belonging to another person.
Fault elements: The person:
- (a) intentionally causes damage to property belonging to that other person or someone else; or
- (b) is reckless as to causing damage to property belonging to that other person or someone else.
Under that legislation could carry a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory.