The Law on Destroying or Damaging Property Using Fire or Explosives in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


It was the awkward moment an attempt to destroy a car with fire in Adelaide’s southern suburbs completely backfired, leaving the offender set alight in flames.

It is reported that on 22 October 2019, an apparent arson attack on a Mitsubishi station wagon parked in a driveway at Noarlunga Downs was caught on camera, only to reveal the suspect accidentally lit himself on fire.

In the footage, which was obtained by 7NEWS, sparks flying from under the car can be seen before an explosion suddenly sends the perpetrator running as flames leap from both of his hands.

Engulfed in flames, the man desperately attempts to extinguish the fire flaring on his jumper before fleeing the scene at Noarlunga Downs.

Neighbours can be seen pursuing the offender although are unable to catch up to culprit.

At around 3:30am, police were called to the Bedlington Court property while fire crews also arrived to extinguish the blaze.

The Mitsubishi station wagon was destroyed; however, no damage was caused to the nearby home.

Police then carried out a search of the area but were not able to trace any suspects.

They did, however, recover a jerrycan along with a burnt rag from the road.

The attack is not considered random. Police do not believe it is bikie related.


Not the First Time House Targeted in Arson Attack

Meanwhile, according to neighbours in the area, the attack on the house was not the first of its kind, with the same property being targeted and another car torched only a month prior to the incident.

In fact, the Mitsubishi destroyed in this latest attack was its replacement.

Speaking of the incident, neighbour, Lenore Sutherland expressed her shock of the attack and her sorrow for the victim.

“I just heard sirens and lights through my bedroom window,” Ms Sutherland said.

“I feel sorry for the lady and wanted to know why they are attacking her house.”

The car’s owner wished to remain unidentified and was left distressed by the blaze that left the vehicle in shreds.


Social Media Users Express Disgust and Disapproval of the Incident

Following the incident, the footage of the arson attack was shared to social media where users were quick to share their thoughts, with a general sentiment of disapproval and payback surfacing.

“Hope he enjoys plenty of pain,” wrote one user, while another commented, “Karma visit”.

“Sorry, but sucked in,” a Top Fan of the 9 News Adelaide also remarked.

“A special kind of stupid,” commented another.

The Law on Destroying or Damaging Property Using Fire or Explosives in NSW

It’s a crime to damage or destroy someone’s property by means of a fire or otherwise in NSW.

The penalties vary depending on the type of charge here.

For example, where a person destroys or damages someone else’s property by means of a fire or explosive, the maximum penalty is 10-years prison, under section 195(1)(b) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Where a person damages or destroys someone else’s property without the means of a fire or explosive, the maximum penalty is 5-years prison.

The maximum penalty is 11-years imprisonment if you do this in the company of another person by means of a fire or explosive according to section 195(1A)(b). The maximum penalty is 6-years prison if it is done in the company of another person without the means of a fire or explosive.

Further, the maximum penalty is 12-years imprisonment if you destroy or damage someone else’s property by means of a fire or explosive during a public disorder according to section 195(2)(b). The maximum penalty is 7-years imprisonment if this is done without the means of a fire or explosive.

A person accused of damaging or destroying property by means of a fire or explosive in NSW will be guilty if the prosecution proves each of the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused person either damaged or destroyed property belonging to someone else; and
  2. The accused person intentionally or recklessly did this; and
  3. The accused person caused such damage or destruction by means of a fire or explosive.

So, what does recklessly damage or destroy a property mean under the law? You will be reckless here if you were aware of the kind of destruction or damage that was caused might be caused at the time but did it anyway.

What are some of the defences to a charge of damage or destroy property in NSW? If a defence applies to this charge, the charge will get dismissed in court or even withdrawn early.

Some of the defences include, self-defence; causation; and where the actions causing the damage or destruction were done out of a necessity or duress.

For more details on this topic or any other criminal law charges, contact us 24/7 to arrange a free consultation with a criminal lawyer from Sydney today.

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