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What the law says

Sections 461 of the Criminal Code Queensland states:

Any person who wilfully and unlawfully sets fire to any of the things following, that is to say-

  • (a) any building or structure whatever, whether completed or not;
  • (b) any vessel whether completed or not
  • (c) any stack of cultivated vegetable produce, or of mineral or vegetable fuel;
  • (d) a mine, or the workings, fittings, or appliances of a mine
  • (e) any aircraft or motor vehicle

is guilty of a crime.

What the police must prove

In order for the Police to prove their case at Court, they must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt.

The accused;

  1. set fire to the property
  2. did so wilfully, that is, the accused either had an actual intention to set fire to the property or deliberately did an act aware at the time he did that arson was a likely consequence of his act and that he did the act regardless of the risk
  3. did so unlawfully. An act which causes injury to the property of another, or which is done without the owner's consent, is unlawful unless it is authorised or justified or excused by law.

It will be necessary for the Police in every offence to prove that the accused was the person who committed the offence. Click here to learn more about identification evidence.

Maximum penalty

The Maximum penalty for the offence of Arson is life imprisonment.

Which court will hear the matter

This matter is indictable which means it is dealt with in the District Court.

Possible defences

Possible defences to this offence include but are not limited to

  1. Duress
  2. Necessity
  3. Intoxication
  4. Insanity
  5. Identification i.e. not the accused
  6. The fire was not intended or likely to cause danger
  7. The fire was an accident.

Criminal Law Article written by Bill Potts (a Queensland criminal defence lawyer who is experienced in Arson matters)


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