Arson is a criminal damage offence with the distinction being that the damage caused resulted from a deliberate fire. As such, the criminal offence of arson is committed when the offender wilfully starts a fire which subsequently destroys property. Where the prosecution can provide evidence to the effect that the offender planned for the fire to cause damage and to endanger lives, then the offence becomes arson with intent. Section 1(3) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 clarifies that where destruction is caused by fire, the offender will be charged with the criminal offence of arson.
The severity of the offence and the degree of seriousness the law attaches to it is confirmed by the punishment for arson. On conviction, sentencing for arson can be as high as life imprisonment; depending on the extent of the damage occasioned, whether lives were endangered and subsequently lost and other aggravating factors. Arson charges may be brought even where the offender argues that he or she had no intention of causing damage to property or to endanger lives when the fire was started. Section 5 of the Criminal Damage Act provides that ‘lawful excuse’ may be cited in defence to charges of the indictable crime of arson.
For the defence of lawful excuse to hold, the defence must evidence that the offender had been under the honest, (even if erroneous) belief that consent had been given or that the property was in immediate need of protection at the time they started the fire. Arson and arson with intent are both very serious indictable offences punishable by very lengthy custodial sentences or even life imprisonment. If you have been charged with arson, even where the property set on fire was yours but the fire had spread to the extent that it endangered the properties and lives of others, you need a very strong firm of criminal defence solicitors on your side.
With several years of invaluable experience in criminal defence, our specialists are simply the best at what they do. All you have to do is give us a call to discuss the facts of your case with a solicitor who will then provide you with detailed legal advice. As one of the top London criminal solicitors, we are very thorough when it comes to case preparation and we will capitalise on every factor that may be potentially mitigating on your befall.