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R v Smith [1974] QB 354 Court of Appeal

The appellant was a tenant in a ground floor flat. With consent of the land lord, he purchased some electrical wiring, roofing equipment, wall panels and flooring and installed them into the conservatory. By installing these items, in law they become the property of the land lord. as they form part of the flat. When the tenancy came to an end, the appellant removed the wiring which involved damaging the wall panels. He was convicted of criminal damage and appealed contending he lacked the mens rea of the offence as he believed that since he had paid for the panels he had a right to damage them.

Held:

His conviction was quashed. He lacked the mens rea of criminal damage as he believed the property he damaged belonged to him. It was irrelevant that the mistake was one of law rather than fact as it related to a mistake of civil law rather than criminal law and there was no need to demonstrate a reasonable belief, it being sufficient that it was honestly held.
 
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