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Arson is the criminal act of deliberately and unlawfully setting fire to various types of property, including buildings, vessels, agricultural or mineral stacks, mines, aircraft, and motor vehicles.

To prove arson, the prosecution must establish that the accused intentionally ignited the fire, either with the intention to do so or by knowingly carrying out an act that could likely lead to arson, while disregarding potential risks. The act must also be unauthorised and cause damage to someone else’s property, unless it is legally justified or excused. Arson is a serious offence with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and it is heard in the District Court as an indictable matter.

Below we outline the offence of Arson as per the Criminal Code as well as what the police must prove, penalties you may face if found guilty of this crime, and legal defences.

For information and advice specific to your matter, it’s recommended you speak with a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. Call our 24-hour crime line now on 0488 999 980 for a free case evaluation or submit an enquiry online.

What the law says

Sections 461 of the Criminal Code Queensland states:

Any person who wilfully and unlawfully sets fire to any of the things following, that is to say-

  • (a) any building or structure whatever, whether completed or not;
  • (b) any vessel whether completed or not
  • (c) any stack of cultivated vegetable produce, or of mineral or vegetable fuel;
  • (d) a mine, or the workings, fittings, or appliances of a mine
  • (e) any aircraft or motor vehicle

is guilty of a crime.

What the police must prove

In order for the Police to prove their case in Court, they must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt.

The accused;

  1. set fire to the property
  2. did so willfully, that is, the accused either had an actual intention to set fire to the property or deliberately did an act aware at the time he did that arson was a likely consequence of his act and that he did the act regardless of the risk
  3. did so unlawfully. An act that causes injury to the property of another, or which is done without the owner’s consent, is unlawful unless it is authorised or justified or excused by law.

It will be necessary for the Police in every offence to prove that the accused was the person who committed the offence. Click here to learn more about identification evidence.

Maximum penalty

The Maximum penalty for the offence of Arson is life imprisonment.

Which court will hear the matter?

This matter is indictable which means it is dealt with in the District Court.

Possible defences

Possible defences to this offence include but are not limited to

  1. Duress
  2. Necessity
  3. Intoxication
  4. Insanity
  5. Identification i.e. not the accused
  6. The fire was not intended or likely to cause danger
  7. The fire was an accident.

The Criminal Lawyers at Potts Lawyers have the experience necessary to deal with Arson charges and other criminal offences. Contact us for more information about how we can defend you.

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