Unconditional Dismissal for Light Fire on Total Fire Ban Day

This is a case study on an unconditional dismissal for Light Fire on Total Fire Ban Day.

Our client attended our office for a consultation after a Magistrate refused his application for court diversion for an offence of Lighting a Fire on a Total Fire Ban Day. A Court diversion is an outcome that allows an offender to avoid a criminal record on the basis of their otherwise good character and their admission of responsibility for the offence. A Court diversion is also usually reserved for offences that do not feature significant criminality.

Our objective in preparing our client’s case was to establish what had not been put before the previous Magistrate or what had been explained and to attempt to remedy the client’s predicament, obtaining the best outcome possible for him. Our client provided several strong character references that spoke of his long and distinguished career in academia. But more importantly, he also had strong ties and commitment to his local community by reason of his involvement in local football and cricket clubs.

What is alleged to have occured?
The facts of the offence were not at all sinister. The client had organised a camping weekend for his son’s birthday. His son’s friend and father were also invited. There had been some genuine confusion as to whether the small campfire lit on the banks of the Yarra River had in fact occurred on a total fire ban day. But after certain facts were put to our client, he accepted that there were certain matters that had required him to make further enquiries. He readily accepted that he was in error in failing to make the necessary enquiries.

What happened at court?
We represented the client at the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court on the charge of Light Fire on Total Fire Ban Day. For this case, we were able to secure the client an unconditional dismissal for Light Fire on Total Fire Ban Day although we initially endeavoured to have the charge withdrawn on the basis that it was not in the public interest.

The case proceeded as a plea of guilty and, in addition to the strong plea material (character testimonials) evidencing the client’s exemplary character, photos were tendered to the court which illustrated the scale of the fire the client lit. This was particularly important as it demonstrated that our client – although having lit a fire on a total fire ban day – had taken significant steps to mitigate the risk of the fire spreading beyond the confines of where it had been established.

What was the result?
The police informant recommended our client for a diversion on the basis of his early and full admissions. During this time, our client had attended court and self-represented.

After a plea in mitigation, the court was satisfied that it was appropriate to simply find the offence proven, but to take no action (known as an unconditional dismissal). This means that the magistrate formally found the offence proven but did not impose any punishment for the offence. Further, the order was made without conviction.

An unconditional dismissal for Light Fire on Total Fire Ban Day is a pleasing but entirely deserved outcome for the client. It is also noteworthy to mention that the offence attracts a maximum fine of over $24,000, and carries the prospect of imprisonment for a maximum of 2 years.
DISCLAIMER: This is a real case study of an actual case from our files. Details pertaining to the client have been changed to protect their privacy. The sentence imposed and the charge have not been altered. These case studies are published to demonstrate real outcomes and give an indication of possible tariffs in Court. We do not guarantee a similar case on these charges will get the same result. Please note that we post results at our discretion, therefore while many case studies are average results, others are notable for their exceptional outcomes. PUBLISHED 04/09/2018