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Is it a criminal offence to recklessly endanger the English public by throwing objects?

For example, throwing bottles or bricks over the wall of a multi-storey car park. This particularly applies if the barrier is high so the thrower can't actually see where the missile is going to land. This means there is not an intent to assault a specific person, just severe recklessness.

I am wondering if this would be considered a public nuisance, or whether there is a more specific criminal offence?

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    Is it all right to endanger the Welsh public? I know the Scots have a different legal system. May 30 at 15:13

3 Answers 3

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It depends...

It could be an offence under section 5 Public Order Act 1986:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he—

  • (a) uses [...] disorderly behaviour ...

[...]

within the hearing or sight of a person1 likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

Then there's Causation to consider, which is:

whether the defendant's conduct (or omission) caused ... harm or damage.

And also recklessness, which can be described as:

unjustified risk-taking.

In R v G [2004] 1 A.C. 1034 two boys set a fire which caused significant damage. They were charged, and convicted, for reckless arson contrary to section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971:

(1) A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence.

...

(3) An offence committed under this section by destroying or damaging property by fire shall be charged as arson.

This conviction was quashed by the House of Lords who determined that test of recklessness for criminal damage is subjective and should take account of, for example the defendant's age (in R v G they were 11 and 12). The court determination was:

A person acts recklessly within the meaning of section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 with respect to -

(i) a circumstance when he is aware of a risk that it exists or will exist;

(ii) a result when he is aware of a risk that it will occur;

and it is, in the circumstances known to him, unreasonable to take the risk.

But compare this with DPP v Newbury and Jones [1976] AC 500 if someone were to die as a result of being hit by a brick:

The defendants, both teenage boys, had thrown a piece of paving stone from a railway bridge onto a train which had been passing beneath them. The object struck and killed the guard who had been sitting in the driver’s compartment.

The defendants were convicted of manslaughter, and unsuccessfully appealed, on the ground that they had not foreseen that their actions might cause harm to any other person. Lord Salmon explained that a defendant was guilty of manslaughter if it was proved that he intentionally did an act which was unlawful and dangerous and that act caused death, and that it was unnecessary that the defendant had known that the act in question was unlawful or dangerous.


1Note that there has to be such a person, not a hypothetical one, to be guilty of this offence.

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    ^one could spend a lifetime researching and writing about causation and recklessness in E&W criminal law, so this is just a snapshot as life's too short!!
    – Rick
    May 28 at 23:48
  • The section of your answer dealing with recklessness seems to assume that the act caused some kind of actual harm or damage, rather than merely creating a risk of harm or damage, which is what (on my reading) the question asked about. May 30 at 23:28
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in this can be jailable conduct

Throwing items from a parking deck means in general that you throw items onto a road. Throwing heavy items onto a road from above is Gefährlicher Eingriff in den Straßenverkehr (§315b StGB - dangerous interference with road traffic). The paragraph does handle both active and deliberate, as well as negligent acts that cause an obstacle or a comparable act of interference with road traffic.

Throwing rocks from highway bridges is a well-known example of this. However, German courts regularly decide that throwing stones in a manner that is likely to cause serious injury or death with reckless disregard for the safety of drivers is not just dangerous interference with road traffic, it is also [attempted] murder.

A rather crass example is this 2001 case where the court convicted three youths for two cases of murder and three cases of attempted murder after they threw a bunch of heavy stones from a bridge on cars, killing two and wounding one more and damaging two more vehicles. If they had been adults, they would have gotten life imprisonment, because they were convicted of murder.

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How about Manslaughter by an unlawful and dangerous act?

The case of R v Goodfellow laid out a four-part requirement which if satisfied could lead to liability for MUDA. The person's action must:

  1. Be intentional

  2. Be unlawful

  3. Lead the reasonable person to realise that some other person is at risk of physical harm

  4. Be the cause of death

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  • The question, on my reading, is about an action which could have caused harm or injury, but didn't. May 30 at 23:31
  • Also, I would love to know what "unlawful" means in this kind of rule. May 30 at 23:33

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