Arson is a confusing area of the law as there are a number of different offences to consider.
What are the different offences?
- Simple arson
- Arson, being reckless as to whether life is endangered
- Arson with intent to endanger life
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.
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)  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
BSB represented me for what I consider to be the most difficult 9 months of my life. There understanding, support and most crucially legal expertise was of enormous comfort to me. I knew the immense hard work they were putting in would mean my representation was the best available. I would recommend BSB to anyone needing legal representation.
Many thanks to Jim, Jon and the rest of the BSB team. Your help and support was priceless.
BSB Solicitors are a company you can definitely put your trust in. I have had the privilege of working with Nathan, a true professional, who has used all his knowledge and effort, to reach the best possible solution for me, in record time. I am not only grateful, but honoured to have met such a person, and I can say with all my heart, that no matter the case, you can truly rely on this law firm, and you can expect the most favourable result.
“I had no success when l was searching to find a law firm that would bother with my unique case, l was constantly ignored and none bothered to return my calls. I am glad they didn’t as it lead me to find the best lawyer and the barrister at BSB. Chloe and Rabia took my case and fought for me. Chole was extremely supportive and patient through out the journey, Rabia was super confident and strong , both ladies did their absolute best and and we won the case, l am so grateful and can’t thank BSB enough for everything.” December 2018