News

Fear of snakes around home drove arsonist

A DEPRESSED alcoholic who was concerned about snakes near his Flinders View home, has avoided prison despite admitting to lighting 11 fires.

Neil Steven Wright, 28, pleaded guilty at the Ipswich District Court to 11 counts of lighting grass fires.

The court heard over an eight day period in December 2012 Wright lit patches of grass in scrub near his Flinders View home.

None of the fires, which were close to a number of houses and the Winston Glades Shopping Centre, were very large, ranging from 2sq m to 100sq m, required fire fighters to put them out with water and back burning.

Wright was seen nearby, watching four of the fires as they burnt.

The court heard Wright's admissions had tied him to two of the fires.

He was caught red-handed lighting a fire on December 22.

Crown prosecutor Shelly Francis said while the fires didn't do much damage that was due to the fire fighters, not Wright.

"Each fire carried the potential to create real risk to the community," she said.

The court heard Wright had a severe dependence on alcohol which had increased around the time of the fires as he had recently separated from his wife.

The court heard Wright told the police at the time he was worried about snakes in the area.

Defence lawyer Tony Glynn said Wright accepted this was an "irrational" reason for lighting fires.

Judge Greg Koppenol said a psychological report regarding Wright's alcoholism and depression had convinced him Wright was an exceptional case.

"Setting fires to grassland can have disastrous consequences," he said.

"Because of the mental state that affected you at the time... your moral culpability was diminished."

Wright was placed on probation for two years and ordered to perform 240 hours of community service.

Topics:  arsonist, ipswich district court



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