Setting Fire to Aircraft

Setting Fire to Aircraft

This charge is generally laid in situations where a person unlawfully and maliciously sets fire to or in any way destroys any aircraft whether complete or incomplete. It is a very serious offence, and you should call a criminal lawyer if you are charged.
setting fire to aircraft
This is a very serious offence which is heard in the County Court.
What is the legal definition of Setting Fire to Aircraft?
Any person who unlawfully and maliciously sets fire to or in any way destroys any aircraft whether complete or incomplete shall be guilty of an indictable offence.

Examples of Setting Fire to Aircraft
  • You are on a flight and want to scare other passengers on the flight, so you light a fire in the toilets.
The legislation for this offence can be found on section 246B of Crimes Act 1958.

Elements of the offence
To prove this charge, the Prosecution must prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused set fire to, or
  2. Partly or completely destroyed in any way
  3. An aircraft
Did the accused set fire to the aircraft?
Whether or not the accused set fire to the aircraft will be a matter of fact.

“Can they prove you set fire to an aircraft?”

Did the accused partly or completely destroy the aircraft in any way?
‘Destroy’ is not defined in the Act so the court will look to the common meaning of the word. According to Oxford dictionary, ‘destroy’ usually means to end the existence of something by damaging or attacking it.

However, the section specifies that it will be sufficient if the accused destroys the aircraft ‘in any way whether complete or incomplete’. Thus, if an accused simply damages the aircraft, this will likely be sufficient.

Is it an aircraft?
According to section 2A of the Crimes Act 1958, ‘aircraft’ means every type of machine or structure used or intended to be used for navigation of the air.

Notably, there is no requirement that the aircraft be in the air at the time when the accused sets fire to it or partly/completely destroys it.
Defences to this could include a factual dispute or lack of intent.

Questions in cases like this
  • Did you partly or completely destroy an aircraft?
  • Did you set fire to an aircraft?
  • Were your actions unlawful and malicious?
You should ring us and discuss your case if you have been charged. Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not has important implications for you and should be made after proper discussions with a criminal lawyer.

Any person convicted of Setting Fire to Aircraft (s246B of the Crimes Act 1958) may be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years imprisonment.