Terror Among the Gum Trees - Is Our Criminal Legal Framework Adequate to Curb the Peril of Bushfire Arson in Australia.
(2011) 18(3) Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 357-377
22 Pages Posted: 29 May 2014
Date Written: August 10, 2011
Many Australians choose to live in a natural environment which places them at risk of the devastating impact of bushfires. The threat of loss from bushfires appears to be on the increase assisted by the climatic conditions in Australia that are set to continue in the foreseeable future. Human activity is stated to be the single greatest cause of bushfire ignitions whether it is due to arson or from an accidental source. Against the backdrop of the catastrophic Victorian bushfires of February 2009 the authors examine the legal and regulatory frameworks relating to bushfire arson in Australia and also consider international perspectives as to both legislation and sentencing ideologies. Although a nationally co-ordinated approach is required in the formulation of substantive legislative provisions aimed at the crime of arson, the authors also advocate that the future way forward in the management of bushfire arson is to adopt a preventative rather than reactive approach. The creative role that courts can play with respect to sentencing options to address the needs of those involved in bushfire arson is also considered. Analysis of regulatory efforts both within and outside Australia reveal that the ‘terror’ in the bush is unlikely to be controlled by legal proscriptions alone but by an integrated approach involving police, the fire services and other correctional service agencies within the criminal justice system.
Keywords: Arson, firesetting, deterrence, strict liability, recklessness, Model Criminal Code, sentencing, therapeutic jurisprudence, non-adversarial justice, restorative justice.
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation