The Law for Arson Causing Death

by Doogue + George Criminal Defence Lawyers

The police makes a charge of Arson Causing Death when a person commits arson that results in the death of another person.

Examples of Arson Causing Death

  • Someone sets fire to a eucalypt plantation in outback Victoria. The fire spreads rapidly due to a change in wind direction to a country town and kills someone.
  • Someone lights a small fire in a house out of spite and then leaves the house. The fire spreads and kills 2 sleeping occupants.

What are possible defences to an Arson Causing Death charge?

  • The arson was committed by someone else.
  • The fire was an accident.
  • The death was caused by someone or something else.

There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.

Questions in cases like this

  • How can they prove that you, not someone else, committed the arson?
  • How can they prove that you deliberately lit the fire?
  • How can they prove that the death wasn’t caused by someone or something else?

Maximum penalty and court that deals with Arson Causing Death

The maximum penalty for Arson Causing Death is level 2 imprisonment (25 years). This offence is usually heard in the County Court. Although in a bushfire type arson, the court might decide that the Supreme Court is the appropriate jurisdiction to hear these charges.

What is the legal definition of Arson Causing Death?

To prove a charge of Arson Causing Death, the prosecution must first prove that someone deliberately destroyed or damaged another’s property with fire. They must then prove that the fire caused a person’s death.


The section that covers this offence is section 197A of the Crimes Act 1958.

What can you be sentenced to for this charge?

Arson Causing Death is a very serious offence that has a high likelihood of resulting in a prison term if you are found guilty.

Sentencing outcomes in the higher courts

From July 2011 to June 2016, there were a total of 12 charges of Arson Causing Death heard before Victorian higher courts. All of these charges resulted in a prison term: 83.3% to a term that is more than 11 but less than 12 years imprisonment, and 16.7% to a term between 10 and 11 years.

If you are facing a charge of Arson Causing Death, speak with a lawyer immediately and get your case evaluated. Doogue + George Defence Lawyers provides legal representation to any accused facing criminal charges in any Victorian court as well as interstate. Contact us.

To view a case study related to this offence including additional resource, visit this page where this article was originally published:


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