This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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.

Legislation

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 you 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:

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.

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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