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Arson is a serious criminal offence. This is evident from the maximum penalty –  imprisonment for life. Courts imposing sentences for arson will, except in the most exceptional circumstances, regard a sentence of immediate imprisonment as appropriate.

The Offence of Arson

The offence of arson is created by section 461 of the Criminal Code Act 1999 which states any person who wilfully and unlawfully sets fire to:

  • a building or structure;
  • a motor vehicle, train, aircraft or vessel;
  • any stack of cultivated vegetable produce, or of mineral or vegetable fuel; or
  • a mine, or the workings, fittings, or appliances of a mine

is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment for life.

What Actions Might Constitute Arson?

  • Pouring petrol on a stolen car and lighting it.
  • Setting fire to an abandoned house.
  • Igniting a Molotov cocktail and throwing it through the front window of a house, causing a fire to start inside.

What must be proven

The prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt for the accused to be found guilty;

  • that they set fire to the property; and
  • did so wilfully; and
  • did so unlawfully.

Possible Defences to Arson

An arson charge can be defended by arguing that:

  • The accused did not have the requisite intent;
  • The accused had a lawful reason for setting fire to the property;
  • The flame did not actually burn the property;
  • The accused was too young and lacked the maturity to understand the nature of their actions (if the accused is below the age of 14);
  • The accused was mentally impaired to the point of not being able to understand the nature of their actions.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Arson is a strictly indictable offence which means it is heard and determined in the District Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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