Man charged with trying to punch an eagle – what’s the (alleged)...

Man charged with trying to punch an eagle – what’s the (alleged) offence?

Photo from the BBC

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.

Animal Cruelty

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.



Image courtesy of Barack Obama, cheers for that.
Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


  1. There are too many gaps in the law. It is ridiculous when there has to be a complicated legal argument that clarifies what should be common sense. And common sense does not say that the person who attempted to punch the defenseless creature committed no crime. His abhorrent and despicable behavior IS covered by the common sense of right minded people and this blighter should be criminlised.

    • There is no general offence of Being Nasty and a good thing too. It would be an instrument of oppression. Pass new laws for future conduct if you must.

      • “Misconduct in a public office” is a general offence of Being Nasty while working for the public.

    • Short of every inch of road being covered by CCTV – and the police making it a matter of high priority to trace the driver of a car which has hit a dog – I don’t see what you expect, J.

      I save my concern for hit-and-run cases where people are injured or killed.