Criminal Law

Arson Offences

Criminal Damage by Fire

The Criminal Code in WA states that any person who willfully and unlawfully destroys property is guilty of a crime. In order for the prosecution to prove their case at court the following matters must be proved:

  1. The accused set fire or assisted to set fire to the property
  2. The accused willfully set fire to the property
  3. The accused did so unlawfully.

The offence is considered very serious and that is reflected in the maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The offence is considered so serious because the consequences to the victims can be devastating and cause significant emotional trauma upon them. The actions of the offender can, in some cases, also place human lives at risk.

What Matters Does The Court Look In Sentencing?

General deterrence is the paramount sentencing consideration for the court in cases involving criminal damage by fire. Matters personal to the offender are of less importance to the court when sentencing. The concept of general deterrence aims to prevent other members of the community from engaging in the same type of criminal activity. The severe penalties that are imposed for criminal damage by fire service as a message to the community that they will receive stiff punishment if they are charged and convicted of the offence.

Matters that the court looks at to determine the appropriate penalty for criminal damage by fire are generally as follows:

  • The circumstances behind the offending;
  • How much damage was caused;
  • Whether the offence placed people at risk of injury or death;
  • The property that was damaged. For example, if the property was a person’s home the seriousness of the offending is heightened.

Which Court Will Hear The Matter?

Because the offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment the offence of criminal damage by fire can only be determined in the Supreme Court.

Possible Defences That Can Be Raised

Possible defences to this offence include but are not limited to:

  • Duress
  • Necessity
  • Insanity
  • Identification i.e. not the accused
  • The fire was not intended

Arson is criminal damage of property by fire. The prosecution must be able to prove that:

  • The accused set fire or assisted to set fire to the property,
  • The accused willfully set fire to the property, and
  • The accused did so unlawfully.

The offence is considered serious because the consequences to the victims can be devastating and cause a significant emotional trauma, and can place human lives at risk.

The maximum penalty for arson reflects the seriousness of the crime. General deterrence -  to prevent other members of the community from engaging in the same type of criminal activity -  is the primary consideration in sentencing, and while the circumstances of your case will determine the penalty you receive, it is likely that you will face a term of imprisonment for this offence.

Do you need legal advice and representation from an experienced criminal lawyer? If so call the Andrew Williams Criminal Law Offices on (08) 9278 2575 or contact us.

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