Shepparton News

Man pleads guilty to two counts of arson

- By Alex Mitchell

A man who started fires at a Shepparton mosque and outside the Salvation Army store has faced Shepparton Magistrate­s’ Court.

Mohammed Jawad, 41, pleaded guilty to two counts of arson, two counts of possessing cannabis, using cannabis and two counts of committing an indictable offence while on bail.

Leading Senior Constable Carita Thompson told the court Jawad attended the Salvation Army Shepparton on Rowe St on September 12 about 9.30am and used a cigarette lighter to set a bundle of clothes out the front of the store on fire.

Jawad can be seen on CCTV footage walking away from the fire without attempting to put it out. A nearby store assistant attended and put the fire out, with the assistance of police.

Later that day Jawad was at Shepparton’s Nabi Akram mosque, where he had been squatting, and started a fire with paper and a carpet against the rear door of the mosque.

A witness observed smoke and went to the scene and saw Jawad throwing items into the fire. Fire Rescue Victoria and police attended the scene and saw Jawad watching the fire.

No structural damage was found, although the court heard it was not known yet what damage the smoke had caused to the mosque.

Leading Sen Constable Thompson said Jawad had previously been charged with two counts of possessing cannabis from incidents earlier this year.

Defence counsel Shana McDonald said Jawad was homeless and was lacking his usual community support due to COVID-19. She presented the court with material regarding his mental impairment and suggested he needed support and supervisio­n in the community rather that a custodial sentence.

Magistrate Peter Mithen adjourned the matter so Jawad could be assessed for a correction­s order, but the matter returned to court the following day after he was found unsuitable.

Ms McDonald still argued for one anyway. She said it was not logical to read the correction­s report that said he needed help and could not access the help, and then sentence him to prison.

“Community protection is far better served by offering him support in the community rather than he is back on the streets unsupporte­d (after prison),” Ms McDonald said.

Mr Mithen said he wanted a Forensicar­e report completed on Jawad before he would make any decision. He remanded Jawad in custody until November 1.

After hearing he was to remain in custody, Mr Jawad let loose with a number of expletives in his native Dari language which an interprete­r had to then interpret to the magistrate.

“He is swearing. He is unhappy,” the interprete­r said before repeating the offensive language for the magistrate.

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