NSW gov­ern­ment is hot on ar­son­ists

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Austin Evans

THE NSW Gov­ern­ment will in­tro­duce tougher sen­tences for ar­son­ists as the state con­tin­ues to be gripped by drought.

Mem­ber for Mur­ray Austin Evans said un­der the new law, any­one caught de­lib­er­ately start­ing a bush fire will face a max­i­mum sen­tence of 21 years im­pris­on­ment – up from 14 years.

“We are putting fire­bugs on no­tice, if you do the wrong thing, you will face the con­se­quences,” Mr Evans said.

“We must all work to­gether to pro­tect Mur­ray from a bush fire dis­as­ter, mak­ing sure ar­son­ists are held to ac­count for their reck­less and dan­ger­ous be­hav­iour.”

The in­creased sen­tence will ap­ply to the of­fence, set out in sec­tion 203E of the Crimes Act, of in­ten­tion­ally caus­ing a fire and be­ing reck­less about it spread­ing on pub­lic land or some­one else’s prop­erty.

The cost of dis­as­ter re­lief and re­cov­ery fol­low­ing NSW bush­fires has risen from $11.4 mil­lion in 2015-2016 to $23 mil­lion in 2016-17.

The At­tor­ney Gen­eral will also ask the sen­tenc­ing coun­cil of NSW to:

■ Con­sider if the five-year stan­dard non-pa­role pe­riod for the bush­fire of­fence should be in­creased.

■ Review the max­i­mum penal­ties for a range of other ar­son of­fences, in­clud­ing de­stroy­ing or dam­ag­ing prop­er­ties.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Speak­man said there was no ex­cuse for putting peo­ple’s homes, farms, stock and lives at risk, par­tic­u­larly when the drought and hot, dry weather dur­ing spring and sum­mer are al­ready a deadly com­bi­na­tion.

“Un­der these con­di­tions, bush fires spread quickly and are hard to stop, so it’s im­por­tant there are harsher penal­ties in place to de­ter po­ten­tial fire­bugs,” Mr Speak­man said.

The NSW Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice has more than 150 highly-skilled in­ves­ti­ga­tors who work along­side the NSW Po­lice Force to in­ves­ti­gate ar­son.

Res­i­dents can con­tact Crime Stop­pers on 1800 333 000 if they sus­pect some­one has de­lib­er­ately lit a fire.

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