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Offending and Reoffending Patterns of Arsonists and Bushfire Arsonists in New South Wales

NCJ Number
Damon A. Muller
Date Published
January 2008
6 pages
This paper reports on data obtained on arson defendants who appeared before New South Wales courts between 2001 and 2006, specifically offending and reoffending patterns.
Highlights of select findings include: (1) a total of 1,099 arson and 133 bushfire arson defendants (n=1,232) were identified from New South Wales (NSW); (2) males comprised around 90 percent of juvenile, adult, and bushfire offenders; (3) the age of all individuals ranged from 10 to 76 years, and the mean age of arsonists (26.7) was similar to bushfire arsonists (26.6); (4) three-quarters of the juvenile arsonists were aged between 15 and 17 years; (5) no significant differences in the characteristics of defendants who were found guilty, and those who were not; (6) around two-thirds of each category of offender were found to be guilty of the index arson offense; (7) charges were more likely to be dismissed against juvenile (21 percent) than adult (8 percent) offenders; (9) for juvenile offenders, custody was followed by community-based orders and fines; (10) custodial sentences were received by 352 individuals which included imprisonment, home and periodic detention, juvenile control orders, and suspended sentences; and (11) fines were received by 88 firesetters, and ranged from $50 to $1,500, with an average of $441. This report found that arson was a considerably more common charge in NSW courts than bushfire arson; however, the offenders charged and the outcomes were quite similar between the two offenses. Arsonists and bushfire arsonists cause a considerable amount of damage to property, the environment, endanger lives, and tie up the resources of the fire services. However, little research has been conducted on these offenders in Australia. The aim of this study is to examine arson offending of individuals who appeared in a NSW court charged with arson or bushfire arson over a 5-year period. It also examined prior offending. Figure, tables, and references


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