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7.5.19 - Arson

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  1. Arson is an offence under Crimes Act 1958 s197(7).
  2. A number of related but discrete offences have also been created by s197 and the surrounding provisions. These are addressed separately in the following topics:
  3. The common law crime of arson has been abolished (Crimes (Criminal Damage) Act 1978 s3).


  4. A person is guilty of arson if he or she commits one of the offences in sections 197(1), (2) or (3), and the relevant offence is committed by destroying or damaging property by fire (Crimes Act 1958 s197(6)).
  5. Consequently, the elements of arson consist of:
  6. See the following topics for information concerning the elements of ss197(1), (2) and (3):

    Relevant Cases Must be Charged as Arson

  7. Where one of the relevant criminal damage offences is committed by fire, it must be charged as arson (Crimes Act 1958 s197(6)).
  8. Consequently, indictments charging one of the offences in ss197(1)-(3) will be invalid if the property was damaged by fire (R v Wood & Ors [1998] EWCA Crim 2436; R v Cooper (G) and Cooper (Y) [1991] Crim LR 524).
  9. However, these offences may be left as common law alternatives to a charge of arson.



[1] It is unclear whether the accused must intend to damage or destroy the property by fire, or whether a general intention to cause damage is sufficient. As a matter of prudence, it is assumed that the more specific intention is required. This is the approach taken in G Williams, Textbook of Criminal Law, 2nd ed, 913 and R v Cooper (G) and Cooper (Y) [1991] Crim LR 524. But compare A Ashworth, "Transferred Malice and Punishment for Unforeseen Consequences" in P Glazebrook, Reshaping the Criminal Law (1978), 92.


Last updated: 19 October 2011

In This Section - Charge: Arson - Checklist: Arson

See Also

7.5 - Dishonesty and Property Offences

7.5.1 - Theft

7.5.2 - Robbery

7.5.3 - Armed Robbery

7.5.4 - Burglary

7.5.5 - Aggravated Burglary

7.5.6 – Home Invasion

7.5.7 – Aggravated Home Invasion

7.5.8 – Carjacking

7.5.9 – Aggravated Carjacking

7.5.10 - Handling Stolen Goods

7.5.11 - Recent Possession

7.5.12 - Obtaining Property By Deception

7.5.13 - Obtaining a Financial Advantage By Deception

7.5.14 - Making or Using a False Document

7.5.15 - Blackmail

7.5.16 - Criminal Damage

7.5.17 - Criminal Damage Intending to Endanger Life

7.5.18 - Criminal Damage With a View to Gain

7.5.20 - Arson Causing Death

7.5.21 - Intentionally or Recklessly Causing a Bushfire