Firebugs to pay cost of fighting blazes under planned tougher legislation

Firebugs to pay cost of fighting blazes under planned tougher legislation

07 October 2013

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Australia — ARSONISTS will be ordered to pay firefighting costs under legislation to be tabled in Parliament in coming weeks.

The State Government said the amendments would toughen laws that dealt with arson and bushfires.

Courts will have the power to make arsonists reimburse the state for the costs of attending and putting out the fire.

Tasmania has been hit by serious deliberately lit fires, including the Bridges Bros building in Hobart and vacant public housing.

“The Government will table legislative amendments before the end of the parliamentary year designed to strengthen the criminal law that deals with arson and bushfires,” Attorney-General Brian Wightman said.

“The proposed new laws will also empower courts to order a convicted offender to reimburse the state for costs incurred in responding to fires lit by arsonists.”

It follows a recommendation by the Sentencing Advisory Council, which said courts should have the right to make convicted arsonists pay.

“It is not unsound or unreasonable to expect an offender [with means] to pay for the cost to be incurred by the state for the firefighting operation for an arson-related offence,” the report said.

The council made 13 recommendations, and had an emphasis on young people, who were responsible for most deliberately lit fires.

While many arsonists did not have the means to pay, there should be an attempt to recoup costs where practical.

It said about one in seven young people engaged in “fireplay”, so identification of motive was crucial.

The sentencing council said it wanted screening developed to determine if early treatment was necessary.

“Given the recognition that adult serial arsonists can potentially be identified in childhood, it follows that it is crucial to attempt to identify these offenders when they first present,” it said.

It also called for more offender treatment programs for adults.

The Tasmania Fire Service runs programs for young people.

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey said the principle seemed sound.

“The community has grown very tired of arson,” Mr Bailey said.

“It’s such a dangerous crime, look at the bushfires on the mainland, let alone house fires.”

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