Damaged or stolen property
Updated 18 November 2013
Establishing the cause
1 It is important to establish whether damage has been caused maliciously, through negligence, or by accident as gaining some form of compensation is dependant upon this.
2 In cases of serious loss or damage, the police may have been called in to investigate and insurance assessors notified where appropriate. It is always useful to have photographic evidence of damage done or statements from witnesses.
3 If the police consider there to have been an offence committed there will be a report made containing the facts of the case, and if there is sufficient evidence the case will be brought to court.
4 If the police find insufficient evidence for a conviction there may still be the chance of a civil action proceeding as long as there is some evidence. (See para 8) The client should be advised to take legal advice.
Compensation for criminal damage/theft
5 If there is to be a prosecution in the Magistrate's Court the owner of the damaged/stolen property should obtain estimates or quotations for repair or replacement of the damaged items and present these to the Centenier bringing the case in plenty of time asking for a Compensation Order to be made. Compensation which can be awarded in the Magistrate's Court is limited, and obtaining a compensation order precludes the victim of the damage/theft from suing the perpetrator in the civil court.
6 If the offender is fined, payment of compensation takes precedence over the fine. The Viscount's Department can be asked to enforce the order if the compensation is not paid.
7 The court will take into consideration the assets and income of the offender when making a Compensation Order and full restitution may not be awarded.
Bringing a civil action for compensation
8 When there are no criminal proceedings brought against the perpetrator of damage/theft it may be possible to bring a civil action for compensation. This will depend upon the quality and quantity of evidence which has been gathered by the victim, and the ability of the perpetrator to pay compensation awarded and costs. Legal opinion should be sought and heeded.
Criminal damage/theft perpetrator(s) unknown
9 The only method of obtaining compensation when the perpetrator(s) of criminal damage/theft is/are unknown is to try to make an insurance claim if this is appropriate. If the damage has been caused to a vehicle by another vehicle, driver unknown, then application should be made to the Motor Insurers Bureau.
10 Accidental damage can be caused to property in many ways and compensation can often only be obtained if there has been negligence on someone's part.
11 The victim of this type of damage should ensure that they obtain 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 the Social Security Department.
12 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.
13 If the damage was purely an accident with no negligence on anyone's part, then only an insurance policy may be able to provide restitution. check household insurance policy, if appropriate.
Damage to/theft of items on Hire Purchase
14 The Hire Purchase Company, or Leasing Company should be notified if there is loss of, or damage to,property the subject of an Hire Purchase agreement or Leasing Agreement. Sometimes such agreements require the lessee to insure the item(s) against various risks, and if such insurance has not been arranged then the liability will lie with the lessee.
15 Re-payments or leasing charges should continue to be paid until the agreement is cancelled by the Company.
Damage caused, or theft, by a juvenile
16 In law no child under 10 years can be guilty of an offence, so damage or theft perpetrated by such a child cannot be punished, and compensation could not be sought.
17 A child between 10 and 14 must be shown to have acted with "mischievous discretion" ie that s/he knew what s/he was doing was wrong. If such a child is found guilty by the Youth Court, the court may order the owner of the property damaged or stolen to be recompensed in some way, perhaps by the parents. The owner of the property should ask the Centenier to suggest to the Youth Court that compensation be paid.
18 Older children and young people aged 14 to 17 found guilty of damage or theft by the Youth Court could be ordered to make restitution 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 clients seeking compensation from juveniles may be able to take action against their parent(s). Clients should always be advised to seek legal advice in these circumstances.