This article is for general information only and should not be relied on for specific legal advice. The author will not be held responsible for any action that a person takes as a result of interpretation of the contents of this article.  It is important to seek specific advice from a qualified and experienced lawyer for any legal problem.

Arson is a serious offence and is the act of intentionally destroying or damaging property through the use of fire.  It is also deliberately committing an act that, at the time, you were aware the property catching fire was a likely consequence and did so regardless of the risk.  Property includes a building or structure, motor vehicle train, aircraft or vessel, any stack of cultivated vegetable produce, or of mineral or vegetable fuel, a mine, or the workings, fittings, or appliances of a mine.

The Law:-

Section 461 of the Criminal Code (Qld) 1899 states;

(1) Any person who wilfully and unlawfully sets fire to any of the things following, that is to say—

(a) a building or structure;

(b) a motor vehicle, train, aircraft or vessel;

(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;

is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment for life.

Elements of the Offence:

It is the duty of the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant has committed the offence.  Every charge has a number of elements that the Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.  For the charge of Arson the Prosecution must prove;

  1. Defendant– The Prosecutor has to prove the identification of the offender;
  2. Fire– There needs to be an actual fire, scorching or charring is not sufficient.
  3. Wilfully– Actual intention to set fire, or deliberately did an act aware at the time that catching fire was a likely consequence and did so regardless of the risk;
  4. Unlawfully– Without the owner’s consent, unless justified or excused by law.

Maximum Penalty for Arson

The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.


In Queensland, if a person is convicted of Arson, then the court could impose one of the following penalties:

  • Jail (suspended, parole or actual time);
  • Intensive Corrections Order;
  • Probation;
  • Community Service Order;
  • Fines.

The actual penalty will depend on the circumstances of the matter including the seriousness of the offence and the individual circumstances and background of the Defendant.

Possible Defences for Arson

There are a number of defences available to charges at law.  Not every defence is available to every charge.  You will need to seek specific legal advice to see if you have a defence available to you for this charge.  Some of the common defences available in criminal charges are;

  • Intention;
  • Accident;
  • Necessity;
  • Intoxication
  • Identity;
  • Insanity;
  • Mental Impairment.

Which Court will your matter be heard in?

The matter is strictly indictable.

In that event a committal hearing will have to be conducted and then the matter will proceed to the District Court.  If you enter a plea of guilty then the charge will be determined by a Judge.  If you enter a plea of Not Guilty then the trial will be before a Judge and Jury.  If you are found guilty then you will be sentenced by the Judge.

What should I do if the police want to speak to me about an Arson allegation or if I am charged with Arson?

You have the right to remain silent. You DO have to provide police with your name, date of birth and contact details. You should NOT answer any questions, make any statement or participate in any interview with the police. You should be polite to the officer but insist that you want to talk to your lawyer. You have the right to telephone a friend, relative or lawyer.

Call an Expert

If you are charged with a criminal offence, it is very important that you seek immediate legal advice. Our team at Brooke Winter Solicitors can give you over the phone advice. We have a solid reputation as expert Criminal Lawyers and can represent you in court. Call us on 1300 066 669 if you have any questions. We can assist you no matter where you are located and can appear in every court.