Intentionally or Recklessly Causing a Bushfire
In Victoria, intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment. Intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire is a very serious offence. A person charged with this offence may also be charged with a range of other offences depending on any damage to property, injury caused or lives lost as a result of the fire.
The offence of intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire is contained in section 201A of the Crimes Act 1958 which states: A person who –
- intentionally or recklessly causes a fire; and
- is reckless as to the spread of the fire to vegetation on property belonging to another –
is guilty of an offence and liable to level 4 imprisonment (15 year maximum)
What Actions Might Constitute Intentionally or Recklessly Causing a Bushfire
Under this provision “causing a fire” includes:
- Lighting a fire;
- Maintaining a fire;
- Failing to contain a fire, except where the fire was lit by another person or the fire is beyond the control of the person who lit the fire.
“Spread of the fire” means the spread of the fire beyond the capacity of the person who caused the fire to extinguish it.
What the Police Must Prove
To find a person guilty of intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That they intentionally or recklessly;
- Caused a fire; and,
- Were reckless as to the spread of the fire to vegetation or property belonging to another person.
A person is not to have acted recklessly if the person caused the fire in the course of carrying out a fire prevention, fire suppression or other land management activity. A person has also not acted recklessly if the causing of the fire was permissible under an Act or a Code of Practice under an Act and the person acted in accordance with the relevant provision.
Possible Defences for Intentionally or Recklessly Causing a Bushfire
A person charged with this offence may argue in their defence that:
- They acted under duress;
- Their acts were not done intentionally or recklessly;
- Their acts were done in accordance with an Act or a Code of Practice approved under an Act;
- They were of immature age (if the accused is under 14).
Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?
Intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire is an indictable offence which must be heard in the County Court.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.