Arson in Canada is recognized as a serious, indictable offence that often accompanies jail time upon conviction. The courts recognize that fire, by its very nature, is inherently dangerous and difficult to control. There are four categories of arson, defined by sections 433 to 436 of the Criminal Code. Maximum sentences range from five years to life imprisonment.
433 – Disregard for human life: intentionally or recklessly setting a fire or explosion to property when a property is occupied or the fire or explosion causes bodily harm to someone.
434 – Damage to property: intentionally or recklessly damaging property not owned by the accused by means of fire or explosion.
434.1 – Own property: intentionally or recklessly setting fire or explosion to your own property where the fire or explosion threatens the health, safety or property of someone else.
435 – For fraudulent purpose: causing damage by fire or explosion with the intention of committing fraud.
436 – By negligence: Failing to prevent fire or explosion at a property the accused owns or controls by failing to take reasonable care to prevent or control the spread of fires and explosion.
When assessing cases of arson, the courts will take into account additional factors such as whether the person who set the fire was intoxicated at the time of the offence. Other factors could include the motivation to set a fire. For example, was the person motivated to set the fire as part of thrill-seeking behaviour, or were there ulterior motives, such as to cover evidence left behind from committing other crimes?
In many cases, those who have been charged with arson are young offenders facing their first criminal charge. Many of these young offenders did not mean to cause significant harm. However, it’s important to understand that even in cases where only minor property damage was caused, the courts have issued significant jail sentences. Often, sentencing will take into account not just the amount of property damage, but also the potential for further damage and bodily harm had the fire remained uncontrolled. If you have any questions, call us for a free consultation.