Firefighting arsonist gets jail term

Firefighting arsonist gets jail term

30 January 2008

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Australia — A volunteer firefighter has been jailed for a year for deliberately lighting a fire in Perth’s hills despite knowing the potential danger.

Christopher William Robert Spooner, 21, of Glen Forrest, was sentenced on Wednesday after a jury found him guilty in the Western Australian District Court in December of wilfully lighting a bushfire near homes in Glen Forrest on November 16, 2005.

Spooner’s mother wept in court as Judge Julie Wager rejected Spooner’s plea for a suspended sentence, saying general deterrence was paramount.

“Given your training as a volunteer firefighter, you knew the … danger from a fire, yet you deliberately lit the fire,” Judge Wager told him.

Spooner was charged with lighting seven fires between September and November 2005 while a volunteer with the Darlington Volunteer Bushfire Brigade.

Under the WA Bushfires Act, it must be proved the fires were likely to injure people or damage property.

Spooner pleaded not guilty to all seven charges, despite admitting he lit three “low risk” blazes that presented no danger to people or property.

A jury cleared him of six but found him guilty of the November 16 fire, which burned 500 square metres of bushland but caused no other damage.

Judge Wager said strong winds on the day disproved Spooner’s claim the conditions were benign and the blaze would not spread.

“There is limited remorse for the potentiality of risk, loss, fear of others,” she said.

Spooner’s lawyer, Laura Timpano, said her client was remorseful, well on his way to rehabilitation and a low risk of reoffending.

But Judge Wager sentenced him to 12 months’ jail, starting Wednesday, for the serious offence.

Spooner will be eligible for parole in six months.

He is expected to appeal.

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