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Sahar Adatia.

There are many ways to add a bit of spark to our romantic relationships and impress our partners.

Indeed, from organising a surprise date-night at a fancy restaurant or taking up a new hobby together, to stepping out in a sultry new outfit or even just stacking the dishwasher for once, the methods to let love go from a slow burn to hot and heavy seem boundless.

But here’s one approach you probably don’t want to try – attempting to flare fireworks to impress said loved one, only to burn down an entire bushland.

Oh dear.

In what can only be described as a flaming mess, an artist in England has been sentenced to jail after his grandiose gesture of love – which involved setting off fireworks to impress his girlfriend – completely backfired and instead started a devastating blaze across moorlands near the town of Holmfirth in West Yorkshire.

Viktor Riedly, 28, thought he would make quite the impression when he let off the fireworks, but instead caused a mile-long inferno and £500,000 (approximately $944,000AUD) worth of damage to the land.

In fact, so destructive was the blaze that more than 100 firefighters were called to tackle the torched 285 hectares, while ultimately, it took three days to bring the inferno under control, with specialist units called in from across the county.

Sadly, the flames consumed precious peatland habitat.

They also harmed vast wildlife, including ground-nesting birds that were residing in a site of special scientific interest

Romance Evidently Fizzles Out as Man is Sentenced to Jail for Arson

Mr Riedly was charged with arson and appeared at Leeds Crown Court over the April 2021 incident.

Inside the court, it was heard that the 3D artist sparked the fire by “experimenting” with a device which he had created for releasing fireworks remotely.

It was also heard that the fire was so horrific that it was declared a major incident by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, and as the fire took hold, members of the public repeatedly contacted emergency services.

Addressing the incident, Judge Neil Clark labelled Mr Riedly’s actions as an “act of gross and crass recklessness” that was done for no other reason than to satisfy the man’s curiosity for what he had created.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor Charlotte Rimmer told the court that embers rapidly spread across Marsden Moor, near the town of Holmfirth in West Yorkshire.

Ms Rimmer added that the incident cost the fire service £410,000 (approximately $774,000AUD) and would set back the National Trust £167,000 (approximately $315,000AUD) to repair the damage.

Mr Riedly, pleaded guilty to arson and was jailed for 12 months after Judge Clark stated the offence was too serious to impose anything other than an immediate prison sentence.

“People have to understand that taking risks with such a vital public amenity cannot be tolerated,” Judge Clark emphasised.

Mitigating, Anastasis Tasou said the artist “accepted full responsibility”.

“He is a man who has exhibited genuine remorse over his actions,” she added.

“He is not a young hooligan. He is otherwise a respectable person. He just didn’t consider that there was a risk in an area that was devoid of buildings.

“It was a relatively early part of the year, but it was unusually dry and windy. This must have contributed to the fact that the fire started.”

The barrister also advised his client had taken steps to become a volunteer for the National Trust to help repair the damage he caused.

Following the hearing, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Area Manager Scott Donegan said they agreed with the sentencing.

“We as a service very much welcome the sentence handed out today and hope it reminds others not to start fires on our moorland.

“This fire caused huge damage to the environment on the moor and required a large response.

“Fires like these are the reason we have Public Space Protection Orders banning flammable items like fireworks, barbecues and fires on moorland – they can have a devastating impact on the brilliant spaces we are lucky enough to have in West Yorkshire.”

Causing a Bushfire Penalties in NSW

In New South Wales, it is a criminal offence to intentionally cause a fire and be reckless as to the spread of the fire to vegetation on any public land or on land belonging to another person, where being reckless may also be established by proof of intention.

This is made clear in Section 203E Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which prescribes a maximum penalty of 21 years in jail for an offence.

To be found guilty of deliberately causing and spreading a fire that causes bushfires in NSW, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  1. Caused a fire and did so intentionally; and
  2. At the time, you were aware of the possibility of the fire spreading to vegetation on public land or another person’s land, but still continued to do so.

“Spreading a fire” means spreading a fire beyond the capacity of the person who caused the fire to extinguish it.

“Causing a fire” refers to lighting a fire, maintaining it or failing to contain one, unless it was lit by another person or unless the fire was beyond control.

Defences to this offence? It should be noted that according to this section, a person is not criminally responsible for an offence if they are a firefighter or acting under the direction of a firefighter; and if the person caused the fire in the course of bushfire fighting or hazard reduction operations.Click here for more law on arson offences.

Published on 05/02/2022

AUTHOR Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia

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