R v White [2017] NZDC 25043

Published 14 November 2017

Reserved judgment — acquittal — arson — intending to damage by fire — intention — Crimes Act 1961, s 267(1)(a) — Criminal Procedure Act, s 136(2) . In this judge alone trial there was no dispute that the defendant had damaged a rental property by lighting a fire in an attempt to smoke her partner out of a locked room and force him to leave the property. However, to prove a charge under the CPA, s 267(1)(a) the Crown needed to prove both that the defendant had intentionally damaged the property and that she did so knowing that danger to life was likely to ensue. The court found that the defendant's intention was to get the victim to leave the property, rather than to cause damage, and that she had no intention of causing the extent of the resultant damage. However, the unintended consequences were much too close to the directly intended effects of her actions to be separated off as mere side effects. The defendant did not wait for smoke to be generated and then put the fire out, but instead left the premises. It was, therefore, found that the defendant intended the damage in a collateral or oblique sense. The court found that the defendant did not intend to cause any harm to the partner, or put his life at risk, as her focus was getting him out of the property. The defendants' partner was awake and active, able to calmly call the fire brigade and then exit out of the window. The court found that a reasonable person would have understood it was a dangerous thing to do and that there was a possibility of danger to life but would not have concluded that death was likely to result. The court then considered whether the charge should be amended to a charge under s 267 (arson) or s 269 (intentional damage) but found that neither charge could be substituted as the defendant had an interest in the property. The court found that there was no jurisdiction to substitute any other charge, and that the second element of the offence had not been proven. The defendant was found not guilty and the charge was dismissed. Judgment Date: 8 November 2017 * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *