Arson is a confusing area of the law as there are a number of different offences to consider.

What are the different offences?

  1. Simple arson
  2. Arson, being reckless as to whether life is endangered
  3. Arson with intent to endanger life

Simple arson

This offence is one of causing criminal damage by fire; examples would be setting fire to a car in a field or to commercial premises. The offence is always treated very seriously and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

What could I get?

Minor damage could be dealt with in the magistrates’ court with a possible community order, more significant damage would be dealt with at the crown court and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In most cases custody cannot be ruled out.

Reckless arson

This recklessness is not to be confused with setting the fire recklessly. The offence is that you are reckless as to whether life is endangered. Examples would be setting fire to a flat in a communal block or on an aircraft.

What could I get?

This aggravated offence will only be dealt with in the crown court and also carries life imprisonment.

Sentences have included 42 months for setting fire to a flat and 9 1/2 years for setting fires on an aircraft.

Minor cases can be dealt with by a non-custodial sentence, but the Court of Appeal has said that immediate custody is the most appropriate sentence absent exceptional circumstances. The court went on to refer to mental health issues possibly being such a circumstance.

Arson with intent

Again, this is not an intent to set the fire but an intent to endanger life in doing so. It may be that it is clear whether there was intent or recklessness, but where it is not, it is likely that you will be charged with both offences as alternatives.

What could I get?

Arson with intent also carries life imprisonment and can only be dealt with at the crown court.

In Attorney General’s Reference (No 68 of 2008) (Myrie) [2008] EWCA Crim 3188 the court observed that sentencing arson cases is not by any means an easy exercise, with “the obvious observation that arson cases are very much fact specific.” However, “…it seems to us that the starting point for arson with intent to endanger life is in the range of eight to 10 years (that would, of course, be following a trial); and in cases involving reckless arson, we would regard the range as rather below that, but it is apparent to us that the dividing line between the worst cases of reckless arson and the least serious cases of arson with intent to endanger life is a fine one.”

Examples of sentences are six years for a defendant who set fire to the bedroom where her husband was sleeping, and seven years for setting fire to a house containing six people.

Contact us on 02078373456 to speak to a member of our team of specialist criminal defence lawyers

Client Testimonials

  • Professional, upfront, and diligent. Highly recommend.

    - Nick L – March 2018

  • I am very happy with BSB, i was James Skelseys client and he was very honest and genuine and patient. He understood my case easily despite it being a difficult bizarre one.
    He always took he’s time to respond to me whether it be text emails or phone calls.
    He was a prefectionist and did everything in detail and never rushed anything.
    He gave us confidence and we are extremely happy with the outcome. Would highly recommend him. 🙂

    - Zafar Nawab – January 2019

  • I cannot recommend the services of Jim Skelsey and BSB Solicitors enough. Even though my situation seemed extremely dire, Jim was able to deliver the best possible result in a very short space of time.

    - Nick S

  • Highly recommended firm. JIm Skelsey my defence lawyer was proffessional, honest and friendly. Always listened and advised me accordingly. Took time and sought evidence to argue a strong case. He worked coherently with the barrister and I was sincerely grateful for the outcome. A huge thank you to this proffessional man/ firm.

    - George M – April 2018