Australia — Arsonists who wilfully destroy or damage property by fire now face up to life imprisonment. Attorney General Christian Porter and Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson have warned that lighting fires would now be considered one of the most serious criminal offences in Western Australia and offenders would be penalised appropriately.
Arsonists will now face up to 20 years in jail for lighting a fire where it is likely damage would be done to persons or property, Mr Porter said.
If an offender wilfully destroys or damages property by fire, the maximum penalty will be life imprisonment.
Mr Johnson also warned that as the peak summer season drew near, people needed to take care when controlling a fire or ignition source.
If a person lights a fire, doesnt take reasonable care of that fire and it results in a person being injured or killed, the offender will be held responsible, he said.
Importantly, lighting fire to bushland is now clearly covered under these new laws.
What this means is that if any sort of property, person or vegetation is damaged by arson, the offender will face very severe penalties.
Mr Johnson said that in 2008-09, WA Police, with the help of the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA), firefighters and public information, charged 161 people with criminal damage by fire and 72 people with offences against the Bush Fires Act 1954.
This represented an increase of approximately 35 per cent from the previous year.
Mr Johnson said the Bush Fires Amendment Bill 2009, which had come into effect, provided a definition of property by including Crown land and bush and fauna, significantly assisting in the prosecution of bushfire arsonists.