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Chris The Lawyer
Chris The Lawyer, Lawyer
Category: New Zealand Law
Satisfied Customers: 19380
Experience:  34 years qualified as a lawyer; LLB, MMgt and FAMINZ.
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Can a person be charged with willful damage for destroying

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Can a person be charged with willful damage for destroying their own belongings? Yesterday, my partner and I had a disagreement. I am in no way justifying his reactions however it escalated and I said some of the most vile things I have ever uttered. In fact I would not stop, I pushed and pushed and pushed then walked out. He swiped the items on our dresser onto the floor. A mirror was smashed and a large glass bowl. The bowl was full of my make-up, but none of it was damaged or broken. He then walked out and punched the door on the way, breaking the wood. He left to take a walk and cool off. He returned 5 minutes later and realised a dog we were sitting for a friend had escaped so he went to look for it. Our neighbours had called the police however and they showed up shortly afterwards. They asked to come in and assess the damage, I said I didn't want them to come in, but they said that because it was a 'domestic violence issue' they could come in even if I didn't want them to, and preceded to do so. Is that true? Do they have the right to come in? They also said he must call them or come into the station, is this true? Should he take a lawyer with him? The panel for the door is easily replaceable, it will be done by the end of today. The bowl and mirror were bought by and gifted to us respectively. Is there a charge here? What line of defence would be the wisest to avoid a charge? He has previous charges, but not for the last 2 1/2 years (he is now 27). He has really been trying to get his life on track. Thank you for your time.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: New Zealand Law
Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

Chris The Lawyer : Hi and welcome. My first response will follow shortly. Please feel free to follow up if anything is not clear.
Chris The Lawyer : The Police can come in when there is recent evidence of an incident, so their entry was legal. As for the charge, they could try wilful damage, but this is certainly arguable in the context of an argument where you both were taking part. But your partner, if they insist on talking to him, may want a lawyer because the policy for domestic violence is to bring charges when possible. So you both will need to decide on an approach to take. For example, you could seek couples counselling, so that you can tell the police you have this under control, and the damage was just something you both can cope with.
Chris The Lawyer : You could tell the police there was no assault but just heated words, which is the position from your description, so neither of you want police involvement.
Customer:

That is exactly what I told them. Repeatedly. I was completely calm when I answered the door and throughout our conversation. They kept pushing me to say that it was aimed at me (I wasn't even in the room) or that it was a common occurrence, it wasn't and isn't.

Customer:

Is it possible to charge him with wilful damage if he broke his own possessions?

Customer:

Also, I feel that if they're going to charge him they will, therefore him going to the police station will be of no benefit to himself. I feel that I gave a description of events and anything he may say will only serve to incriminate himself, so he should not speak with them unless charged. Do you agree or disagree with this?

Chris The Lawyer : he can choose to say nothing if they arrest him. So he can send them the message he does not intend saying anything, and it would be pointless interviewing him. They can choose at that point to arrest him, and he can defend this.
Customer:

If they intend to arrest him, it's not like he's going to be able to convince them otherwise, so I can only see an interview giving them incriminating information. Do you think that not working with them will antogonise the situation, or make little difference?

Customer:

antagonise*

Customer:

And is it possible to be charged with wilful damage for breaking your own possessions? Thanks

Chris The Lawyer : They will get hostile if he doesn't cooperate, which is why having a lawyer present may be useful. You can be charged with damaging your own possessions, but they do need to prove this was deliberate.
Chris The Lawyer : I think working with them may lead to a charge, so best to preserve his right to say nothing.
Customer:

Are deliberately breaking your possessions because you want to specifically destroy them, and breaking them in a fit of anger two different things?

Chris The Lawyer : Yes they are. It is all about intent. So he may have a defence to wilful damage if they charge him with this.
Chris The Lawyer : I think you should also tell the police you are seeking couples counselling, to deal with issues, as this may take some of the heat off their inquiries. And I think it may be useful anyway.
Customer:

Okay thank you very much. One more thing, I think they will be back to my house as my partner did not return last night and they haven't spoken to him. Do you think speaking on his behalf (ie that I have made inquiries with a lawyer and looked into couples counselling) is a bad idea?

Chris The Lawyer : They will ask, and I think this is the best response, but don't say much more. Say you prefer not to say more, and you do not have to anyway.
Customer:

Okay, thank you so much. This has been very helpful.

Chris The Lawyer : I hope you both work out the issues and get this past you. It's not easy sometimes.
Customer:

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX they all say this, but it truly was a freak event and completely out of character. It's unfortunate that a slip could be so incredibly detrimental. Hopefully a charge can be avoided as we're hoping to go to Turkey at the end of the year.

Customer:

Anyway, thanks again Chris, have a good day

Chris The Lawyer : Glad to help
Chris The Lawyer, Lawyer
Category: New Zealand Law
Satisfied Customers: 19380
Experience: 34 years qualified as a lawyer; LLB, MMgt and FAMINZ.
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