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My neighbour threw acid over my garden; he has been charged for criminal damage. I was told by a (junior) policeman that I'd need a loss assessor's assessment on the amount of damage before the first hearing. I should note that I did not have insurance.

In my garden, there's a 7 meter tall, 40 year old thuja tree. I've asked a few companies for quotes, and it'll cost a few thousands just to have it cut down. Is it correct that the amount of damage includes the removal and replanting of a new tree, i.e. the restoration of my property?

In fact, is it necessary to hire a loss assessor to determine the damage amount? Could I obtain quotes from several companies and hand them to Court? A friend of mine was a victim of criminal damage once (his computer was smashed) and he just named an amount without hiring one.

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If the amount of money that you are looking for is high enough, get a lawyer.

A police officer, especially a junior police officer, is likely to have a bit of knowledge of law, including civil law, but is by no means an expert. What they say can easily be wrong.

What a court will want is evidence of the cost of the damage (and they won't be happy if the cost is artificially high). You don't need perfect evidence; it just needs to be good enough that the other side cannot overcome your evidence. If you go to one or two qualified companies, and get a quote for the work done, and also ask them for a statement that this work is necessary to undo the damage, then you should be fine. So not just the cost of felling the tree, but also a statement that felling the tree is necessary in their qualified opinion.

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  • This is correct, we don't have any extensive knowledge on most laws so speaking to a lawyer is the best option. – Terry Dec 8 '15 at 9:42
  • @Terry By "we" do you mean the police? – Paul Johnson Mar 2 '19 at 9:40
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As a plaintiff, if you decide to sue, you will need "non-speculative" numbers that represent the cost of making you "whole" again. If it is a criminal hearing and you are asking the court to award you, as the victim, monetary restitution, the same holds true, or else the defendant could appeal the award. Neither of these are necessarily necessary if the person takes a plea that include restitution, or if a civil case is settled out of court. So long as the defendant agrees to it.

For a hearing, estimates (on paper) are hearsay or a business record; either way, inadmissible without either a custodian ( if a business record) or an expert (landscape architect) to testify to it.

You also have a duty to mitigate your damages. So, as an example, if you could have the tree paired and pruned for $500 and that will save it, but if you fail to and it dies it will be $5000 to replace it, the defendant's lawyer can argue you e failed to mitigate and so you are only entitled to what it would have cost had you taken those measures. I mention this only because you should make sure that there is nothing you can do to mitigate the extent of your damages.

If the replacement is necessary and evident, and the cost is published somewhere (say a catalogue), you can ask the court "take judicial notice" of that as evidence-However it doesn't seem that's the case in your instance.

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You can hire a loss assessor yourself (an "adjuster" works for an insurance company, an "assessor" works for you). These people should (I believe) be able to give you an answer that the court will accept as evidence. You can add their fee to the amount you are claiming.

If you were insured then it would be the insurance company doing all this as part of their job, which is what the PC was assuming.

(Note: the link above is to a company who do this. I'm not recommending them, they just have web pages that explain things a bit more. Do your own research before hiring someone.)

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