Introduction and Facts
The eagle is a majestic bird. Especially the bald eagle, which is the national bird of the USA no less.
It’s also the mascot of Crystal Palace, a less than majestic football team bumping along above the relegation zone of the Premier League.
Palace have a live mascot – Kayla – who attends all their live games and flies around the stadium.
On 23rd September 2015 Crystal Palace were playing a cup tie at home against Charlton Athletic. Things got a bit fruity, which lead to several people being arrested.
One, Daniel Boylett, is accused of punching Kayla. It’s important to stress here that Mr Boylett denies wrongdoing, as do the others arrested, and there is a trial coming up. For that reason, we are not commenting on any of the events, or suggesting that Mr Boylett has done anything wrong.
Why we are writing about is to address the abstract question – ‘what’s the charge for someone who tries to punch an eagle’?
Here, it is attempted criminal damage. We have a look at why …
It is an offence under s1 Criminal Damage Act 1971 to ‘damage any property‘ belonging to another. As with many offences, it is a separate criminal offence to attempt an offence (but see here for a longer discussion of when you can attempt an offence).
Punching most things carries a risk of breaking it, which would be criminal damage. So trying to punch something is an attempt to do so.
But, Kayla is a bird. How is that property?
Looking at s10 Criminal Damage Act there is a definition section:
(1) In this Act “property” means property of a tangible nature, whether real or personal, including money and—
(a) including wild creatures which have been tamed or are ordinarily kept in captivity, and any other wild creatures or their carcasses if, but only if, they have been reduced into possession which has not been lost or abandoned or are in the course of being reduced into possession
Here, although bald eagles are usually wild, Kayla had been tamed, or at the very least, “reduced into possession“. So for that reason, he is capable of being criminally damaged.
The above explains why there isn’t an animal cruelty charge (presumably under s4 Animal Welfare Act 2006). There is a different definition of what constitutes a tame animal under s2, but Kayla would fall within that also.
As no harm was done, it would have to be an attempt to commit an offence. And, for the reasons set out above, you can’t attempt a summary only offence.
As stated, this struck as an interesting charging question – Mr Boylett and the other defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence and nothing here should suggest that he did anything wrong.