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An Overview on the Topic of Arson

This blog is meant to delve into the topic of arson. If you have any follow up questions or have been charged with the offence of arson, then give our office a call today and allow us to inform you more on the subject-matter.

Arson – What is it and what are the related penalties?

Let’s begin with the definition of arson in the context of Canadian criminal law. Here are some facts and helpful information:

  • Anyone who intentionally or recklessly causes damage to property by fire or explosion is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life where that person knows that or is reckless as to whether the property is inhabited or occupied, or the fire or explosion causes bodily harm to another person.
  • Anyone who owns, in whole or in part, or controls property is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years if, as a result of a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would use to prevent or control the spread of fires or to prevent explosions, that person is a cause of a fire or explosion in that property that causes bodily harm to another person or damage to property.
  • A person who intentionally or recklessly causes damage to property by fire or explosion where human life is not endangered is guilty of an indictable offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 14 years.
  • If the property is owned in whole or in part by the offender, the maximum penalty for arsonis imprisonment for 14 years if the fire or explosion seriously threatens the health, safety or property of another person. Whether or not the offender owns the property in whole or in part, he or she is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years if damage is caused to the property by fire or explosion with intent to defraud any other person.
  • Possession of any incendiary material, incendiary device or explosive substance for the purpose of committing arson is punishable by five years’ imprisonment.
  • For mentally disturbed offenders who set fires as a symptom of illness, the normal policy of the courts is to impose a custodial sentence where serious damage to real property has resulted, though the term may be modified in light of clear evidence of the offender’s treatment needs. Where less serious damage has been done, the court may consider a non-custodial course of treatment.
  • For deliberately setting fire to a residence, either without a motive or in the course of a personal dispute, the range of sentence appears to extend from nine months to seven years imprisonment. The major considerations are the amount of damage done and the degree of danger occasioned to the lives of occupants. Terms in excess of three years are generally reserved for particularly callous conduct or offences resulting in enormous losses.
  • Where arson is committed pursuant to a plan to defraud an insurance company, the major focus in sentencing tends to be on the type and magnitude of the fraud involved.

What do the Canadian Courts have to say about Arson?

It has been consistently held by the Ontario Court of Appeal that conditional sentences are inappropriate for serious arson offences. So what does this mean? It means that an accused person is likely to face serious consequences if convicted of arson, such as imprisonment. The loss of liberty is at stake. It is highly advised that a person accused of arson retain the services of a criminal defence lawyer at the earliest opportunity.

If you are interested in reading defences to arson, then check out our blog on Arson and Defences to learn more.

The Aitken Robertson Team

It goes without saying that a charge of arson is a serious criminal charge. If you are charged with arson, it is highly recommended that you seek representation by one of our criminal defence lawyers at Aitken Robertson. This offence is arguably one of the more serious charges under the Criminal Code of Canada. As evidenced above, the charge of arson carries with it harsh penalties and hence, it is important that you appreciate that a lawyer can help you minimize the impact and maximize favourable results. We offer free 30-minute consultations to help potential clients make informed decisions going forward in terms of the best representation for them.

Yasmine Al-Zaman

Yasmine’s patience, compassion and understanding allow her to work collaboratively and effectively with her clients. She appreciates the level of fear and confusion most people feel when confronted with the legal system. With that in mind, Yasmine puts her best foot forward to offer quality legal services.

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