If you are charged with any offence involving the lighting of fires, we recommend that you contact us immediately for legal advice and representation. As former Police investigators and prosecutors for the Police and Director of Public Prosecutions, our two criminal lawyers Josh McKenzie and James McLoughlin are extremely familiar with how police investigate these types of matters, and are also able to identify any strengths or weaknesses with the brief of evidence. Don’t let this advantage be underestimated. Josh and James are non-judgmental and are passionate about their clients. Get in contact with them today.
What’s the offence relating to bushfires?
The offence of causing a bushfire and being reckless to it spreading is contained in section 203E of the Crimes Act 1900. That legislation says that a person who, “intentionally causes a fire, and who is reckless as to the spread of the fire to vegetation on any public land or on land belonging to another is guilty of an offence.”
What is the definition of ‘causing a fire?’
‘Causing a fire’ includes lighting a fire, maintaining a fire, or 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.
What are the penalties involved for lighting fires?
In New South Wales, intentionally causing a bushfire and being reckless to it spreading is an offence that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. However, if a person dies as a result of the bushfire, the person who committed the offence may be charged with murder or manslaughter which can carry a penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment.
Why are the penalties so tough?
In New South Wales, the offence is taken very seriously by the Courts. Bushfires cause significant damage to property and often result in the death of or injury of people and wildlife. Depending on the circumstances of the offence, the starting point may be a sentence of imprisonment due to the inherent risks involving others.
Are there any defences available?
Yes. Some defences are in the legislation and include circumstances where the person is a firefighter or acting under the direction of a firefighter. Alternatively, the law says that another defence is where the person caused the fire in the ‘course of bushfire fighting or hazard reduction operations.’
Other available defences include self-defence, duress and necessity.
Are there any other offences that I could be charged with?
There are offences pursuant to section 100 of the Rural Fires Act (1997). Those offences relate to setting fire to the land of another person, the Crown or any public authority, or permitting a fire to escape from property in circumstances as to cause or likely to cause injury or damage to the person, land or property of another person or land or property of the Crown or public authority.
Other offences exist under that Act when there are fire bans in place or when a person without lawful authority leaves a fire that has been lit in the open air before the fire has been extinguished.
Why contact McKenzie McLaughlin for representation?
To put it simply, we know how the other side works. We know how the police investigate and prosecute matters. We are experienced, passionate defence advocates who will be by your side through the entire court process. We will always tenaciously defend a matter if required to do so and always strive to get the best outcome for our clients. We know that there are two sides to every story, so let us tell yours.