The holiday season is usually a time of year that we look forward to as we associate it with public holidays, warm weather and glorious beaches, all while surrounded by family and friends. This year was a little different, although Santa visited most of our homes, unfortunately there were some that he couldn’t get to due to the relentless fires. We have all been gripped by the devastating bushfires that have ravaged significant parts of the country claiming the lives of heroic Australians and affecting many along its aggressive path.
Here at Whitfield|Legal our thoughts have been with the courageous firefighters and emergency responders, the families affected by the fires as well as all the volunteers who have contributed their time and efforts in providing help and relief over this incredibly difficult and overwhelming time. Not all fires are naturally occurring so where does criminal law step in to deter and punish arson related crimes?
On 17 December 2019, The Australian reported that police are set to charge a dozen people with arson in New South Wales alone. While overnight on 5 January 2020, fires in Sydney Olympic Park are currently being investigated when fireworks were found in a car park near a serious and potentially catastrophic grass fire.
The fires have become so bad that thousands have been displaced and affected, with millions of hectares being burnt in NSW alone. At present, the fires have spread south to the NSW-Victoria border and north to the NSW-Queensland border.
The Federal Government has announced the deployment of 3,000 Army reservists to aid in rescue efforts and to help deal with the fallout.
What is Arson and What Does the Government Do About It?
Arson is defined by the Australian Institute of Criminology as “the act of intentionally and maliciously destroying or damaging property through the use of fire”.
In August 2019, [the NSW Government revised the penalties for arson, increasing the standard non-parole period from 5 years to 9 years as well as an increase to the maximum sentence from 14 years to 21 years which was introduced back in November 2018.
The Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said here “My message to would-be firebugs is to stop and think about the children and families who could be killed or injured and the huge economic and emotional toll …”
Penalties For Arson
Offence Name: Intentionally cause fire and be reckless as to its spread
|Offence||Court||Max Imprisonment||Non-parole||Max Fine|
|Intentionally cause fire and be reckless as to its spread||Local Court||2 years||–||$11,000|
|District Court||21 years||9 years|
|Supreme Court||21 years||9 years|
The NSW RFS, NSW Police and Army Reserve are working closely together to contain and deal with the fallout of these catastrophic fires and investigating their causes to determine their root cause, resulting in several charges being laid.
The team at Whitfield|Legal would like to thank all the brave individuals fighting these blazes.
At Whitfield|Legal we have significant experience in criminal law matters. We offer a free initial consultation and ongoing support for you even after your matter is finalised. If you have been charged with an arson related offence and feel that you need legal advice, please call the team at Whitfield|Legal on 0412 159 813 for an obligation-free initial consult and advice.