Australia — A volunteer firefighter admits he deliberately lit bushfires but claims he took great care to avoid damage to life or property, a Perth court has been told.
Christopher William Robert Spooner, 21, of Glen Forrest, is on trial in the Western Australian District Court accused of wilfully lighting seven fires in the Perth Hills area between September and November 2005.
He has been charged under the WA Bushfires Act, where it must be proved the fires were likely to injure people or property.
Spooner denies he lit four fires which occurred within his Darlington Volunteer Bushfire Brigade’s area of responsibility, but admits to lighting three others in the neighbouring Glen Forest zone.
He claims at the time there were rumours he was lighting the fires so he could be called out to fight them and this prompted him to deliberately light several blazes outside his zone to try to quell the “scuttlebutt”.
In court on Thursday, Spooner said he gave the utmost attention to the weather, the density of bushland, proximity of houses and availability of firebreaks to ensure the fires he lit would be low risk and did no damage.
“I was specifically avoiding damaging property,” Spooner said.
Prosecutor John Foulsham suggested the weather conditions were not as benign as Spooner said, that there were often buildings close to the fires and the bush was sometimes thick and highly flammable.
He has previously asserted the fires could have easily caused damage to people or property.
During a police interview on the day he was arrested, Spooner admitted to lighting all seven fires.
The accused now claimed he only did so because he had been pressured and threatened by police who said they would seize his car and bicycle, interview his friends and go much harder on him if he did not cooperate.
“I felt threatened by these remarks and I really did want to get it all over and done with and get out of there,” he said.
Mr Foulsham suggested that was rubbish and police never threatened Spooner.
Spooner denied he had ever planned what he would say to police if he was caught.